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THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



NIHIL OBSTAT: 
Brugis, n a Fcbruarli 19 26 
Alb. Boone, S. J. 




IMPRIMATUR : 
Brugis, 11 11 Fcbruarii 1926 
H. VAN den Berche, Vic. Gen. 



MAUI! IN CNTAT IlRITAlN AT TUP PITMAN PIII-SS, HATH 


PREFACE. 


Christ Jesus is the sublime Ideal of all holiness, the Divine 
Model presented by God Himself to the imitation of Ills elect. 
Christian holiness consists in the complete and sincere acceptation 
of Christ by faith, and in the expansion of this faith by hope 
and chanty; it implies the stable and total hold exercised by 
Umst upon our activity through the supernatural influence of 
His Spirit. Christ Jesus, the Alpha and Omega of all our 
works becomes by ike communication of His own life, the very 
hfe of our souls: Mihi vivere Christas est. This is what we 
have tried to show, in the light of the Gospels and the writings 

° nr fnu Und St ' J° kn > in a fi rst series of conferences 
entitled. Chnst the Life of the Soul. Asa logical consequence, 
these uvginaiic truths required the concrete showing forth of the 
very existence of the Incarnate Word. This existence is mani- 
fested to us by the states and mysteries, the actions and words 
of the Sacred Humanity of Jesus. Christ’s works, during His 
terrestrial life are at once models to be imitated and sources of 
holiness: from them ever goes out a powerful and efficacious 
virtue to heal, enlighten and sanctify those who by faith come 
in contact with the mysteries of Jesus with the sincere desire of 
walking in His footsteps. We have studied, under tins aspect, 
the Incarnate Word, in a second volume: Christ in His 
Mysteries. 

But besides the precepts laid down by Christ to His disciples 
as condition of salvation and essential holiness, there are to be 
found in the Gospels some counsels that Christ proposes to 
those who wish to make the ascension of the sublime heights of 
perfection: Si. vis perfectus esse, vade, vende omnia quae 
habes, et veni, sequere me. 

These are only counsels, undoubtedly: " If thou wilt, " Si vis, 
said the Master. But the magnificent promises made by Him 
to those who follow them show the value that He Himself attaches 


VIII 



to their observance: this observance has for its aim a more 
complete and more perfect imitation of the Saviour. Here again, 
He is the Way and the Model: religious perfection is but the 
full acquisition and the entire taking possession of the soul by 
the leaching and example of the Word Incarnate : Veni, sequere 
me... Perfectus omnis discipulus erit si sit sicut Magister 


ejus. 

These are the thoughts that we have endeavoured to continent 
upon in the present volume. We have constantly placed the 
Divine Figure of Christ before the eyes of privileged souls called 
to walk in the path of the counsels : nothing is so efficacious 
as this contemplation to touch and draw souls, and to obtain 
from them the necessary efforts in view of remaining faithf ul to 
so high a vocation and one so rich in eternal promises. 

Many of these pages explain the religious life such as St. Be- 
nedict understands it; but, as we shall fully see in the sequal, 
in the eyes of the Patriarch of monks, the religious state, taken 
in what is essential, docs not constitute a particular form of 
existence on the borders or at the side of Christianity : it is this 
same Christianity lived in its fulness in the pure light of the 
Gospel: Per ducatum Evangelii pergamus itinera Christi. 
The extraordinary supernatural fecundity of which the Rule has 
given proof throughout so many centuries, is only to be explained 
by this essentially Christian character imprinted by St. Benedict 
on all his leaching. 


A glance cast on the Index of the Conferences, at the begin- 
ning of the volume, will show the simplicity of the plan adopted. 
The first part gives, in broad outline, a general view of the 
monastic idea and institution, such as they appear to those who 
wish to cross the threshold of the cloister. The second part 
develops the programme to be filled by those desirous of adapting 
themselves to this idea and of embracing this institution in such 
a way as to assimilate all its- spirit. This work presents a 
two-fold aspect: The necessary detachment from- created things 
m order to cleave to Christ; the way of detachment , thus 
embraced, leading to the life of union: " Behold we have left 
aU things - to follow Thee, " Ecce nos reliquimus omnia. 



IK 

— et secuti sumus te. That is the whole substance of the 
practice of the counsels, the secret of perfection. 

It will be seen that this plan closely follows the one adopted 
in Christ the Life of the Soul. This is not to be wondered at, 
since religious perfection is so essentially akin to Christian 
holiness. 

May these pages serve to make a great number of souls better 
understand the nature of this perfection to which God so widely 
invites Christians; to increase in some of these the esteem of 
the religious vocation sometimes misunderstood by our age; to 
help some chosen ones to realise in themselves the call of grace 
or to triumph over the obstacles that natural affections or the 
spirit of the world oppose to its call... May they above all 
quicken the first fervour of such consecrated souls whose perseve- 
rance perhaps is wearied by the length of the way; obtain 
for those who are faithf ul to their vows the resolution of applying 
themselves without relaxing to attain the summit of the 
virtues ; finally, stimulate among them the best of ambitions, 
ever unsatisfied, that of holiness! 

■ Confident that the Heavenly Father will recognise in our 
humble labour the traditional teachings of His Saints 1 , and 
will vouchsafe to bless our efforts to prepare His field — Apollo 
rigavit — we earnestly beseech Him to throw therein the divine 
seed by hand fids and to bring it to maturity — Deus autem 
incrementum dedit. 

For this let us render Him even now our humble and filial 
thanksgiving l 

D. C. M. 

Maredsous Abbey, 

Solemnity of St. Benedict. 

July, nth, 1922. 

1. Among Benedictine authors, we have chiefly quoted those who, by their 
teaching or life, have more particularly laid stress on the central idea expressed 
by the title of this book ; this explains why we have by preference utilised 
the writings of St Gregory, St Bernard, St Gertude, St Mochtildc and Blosius. 



INDEX OF CONFERENCES 



i. 

GENERAL VIEW OF THE MONASTIC 
INSTITUTION 


I. “ To seek God. ” ' . 1 

II. The Following of Christ 19 

III. The Abbot, Christ’s Representative 40 

IV. The Cenobitical Society • 63 


II. 

Starting point and two-fold 

CHARACTER OF MONASTIC PERFECTION 


V. Our Faith, the Victory over the World 87 

VI. Monastic Profession 106 

VII. The “ Instruments of Good Works. " • 121 


A. THE WAX OF ABNEGATION 
( [Religuimvt omnia') 

VIII. Compunction of heart , 148 

15 . Self-Renunciation _ 172 

X. Poverty 191 

XI. Humility 209 

XII-. Bomtm obedicntiae 260 


B. THE LIFE OF UNION WITH OHEIST 
( ...et teeuti tumut te ) 


XIII. The Oput Dei , Divine Praise 291 

XIV. The Opui Dei, Means of Union with God 310 

XV. Monastic Prayer . ... . 337 

XVI. Tho Spirit of Abandonment to God’s Will -avo 

XVII. Good Zeal 

XVIII. The Peace of Christ ' 




I. — 


TO SEEK GOD 


Summary. — Importance of the end in the human life. — I. " To seek 
God ", the. end of the Monastic Life. — II. To seek God in 
all things. — III. To seek Him only. — IV. Precious fruits of 
this search. — V. How Christ Jesus is the perfect Model of 
this seeking after God. 

W hen, we examine the Rule of St. Benedict, we see 
very clearly that he presents it only as an abridge- 
ment of Christianity, and a means of practising the 
Christian Life in its fulness and perfection. 

We find the great Patriarch declaring from the. first lines 
of the Prologue of his Rule, that he only addresses those 
who wish to return to God under' Christ’s leadership. And 
in ending the monastic code he declares that he proposes 
the accomplishment of this rule to whomsoever, through the 
help of Christ, hasteneth to the heavenly country: Quisquis 
ergo ad patriam caelestem festinas, hanc... regulam descriptam, 
adjuvante Christo, perfice 1 ., 

To his mind, the Rule is but a simple and very safe guide 
for leading to God. In writing it, St. Benedict does not 
wish to institute anything beyond or beside the Christian 
life : he does not assign to his monks any special work as a 
particular end to be pursued ; the end is, as he says, " to 
seek God ” : Si r ever a quaerit Deum 2 . This is what he re- 
quires, before all, of those who come to knock at the door 
of the monastery to be there received as monks ; in this 
disposition he resumes all the others ; it gives, as it were, 
the key to all his teaching, and determines the mode of life 
he wishes to see led by his sons. This is the end that he 
proposes, and this is why we ought always to have this end 
before our eyes, to examine it frequently, and above all only 
to act in view of it. 

You know that every man, as a free and reasonable crea- 
ture, acts from some deliberate motive. Let us imagine 
ourselves in a great city like London. At certain hours of 
the day the streets are thronged with people ; it is like a 
moving army. It is the ebb and flow of a human sea. Men 
are coming and going, elbowing their way, passing to and fro, 

i. Holy Rule ch. i.xxin. — 2. Ibid. ch. lviii. 




2 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

and all this rapidly - for "time is money, " - almost 
without exchanging any signs among themselves. Each one 
of these innumerable beings is independent of the others 
and has his own particular end in view. Quid, quaerunt. 
What are they seeking, these thousands and thousands of 
men who are hurrying in the City ? Why are they m such . 
haste? Some are in search of pleasure, others pursue 
honours; these are urged by the fever of ambition, those 
by the thirst for gold ; the greater number are in quest of daily 
bread. From time, to time, a lady goes to visit the poor , 
a Sister of Charity seeks Jesus Christ in the person of the 
sick ; unnoticed, a priest passes by, the pyx hidden upon 
his breast, as he carries the Viaticum to the dying...' But 
out of this immense crowd pursuing created things, only a 
very small number are working for God alone. 

And yet the influence of the motive is predominant in the 
value of our actions. See these two men who are embarking 
together for a far-off destination. Both leave country, friends, 
family ; landing on a foreign shore, they penetrate into the 
interior of the country ; exposed to the same dangers, they 
cross the same rivers an the same mount?ins ; the sacrifices 
they impose upon themselves are the same. But the one 
is a merchant urged on by the greed of gold, the other is 
an apostle seeking souls. And this is why, although the 
human eye can scarcely discern the difference, an abyss which 
God alone can measure separates the lives of these two men ; 
•tliis abyss has been created by the motive. Give a cup of 
water to a beggar, a coin to a poor man ; if you do so in the 
name of Jesus Christ, that is to say from a supernatural 
motive of grace, and because in this poor man you see Christ 
Who said : " As long as you did it to one of these my least 
brethren, you did it to Me *, ” your action is pleasing to 
God ; and this cup of water, which is nothing, this small 
coin, will not remain without a reward. But pour out hand- 
fuls of gold into the hand of this poor man in order to pervert 
him : on this account alone, your action becomes abominable. 

Thus then, the motive from which we act, the end that 
we pursue, and that is as it were to direct our whole life, is 
for us of capital importance. 

Never forget this truth : a man is worth that which he 
seeks, that to which he is attached. Are you seeking God ? 
are you tending towards Him with all the fervour of your 
soul ? However little removed you may be from nothingness 
by your condition of creature, you raise yourself, because you 

1 . 1 Matth. xxv, 40. 


! 


TO SEEK GOD 3 

unite yourself to the infinitely perfect Being. Are you seek- 
ing the creature ? gold, pleasures, honours, satisfaction of 
pride, that is to say yourself under all these forms ? Then, 
however great you may be in the sight of men, you are just 
worth as much as this creature, you lower yourself to its level, 
and the baser it is, the more you debase yourself. A poor 
Sister of Charity, a simple Lay Brother, who, seeking God 
spend their lives in humble and obscure labours in order to 
accomplish the Divine will, are incomparably greater in the 
sight of God — Whose judgment alone matters, for He is 
eternal - — than a man who has heaped up riches, or is 
surrounded with honours, or lives only for pleasures. 

Yes, a man is worth what he seeks. This is why 
St. Benedict, who shows us the adepts of the cenobitical life 
as " the most strong race ”, coenobitarum fortissimum genus 1 , 
requires so supernatural and perfect a motive from one who 
wishes to embrace this career : the motive and ambition of 
possessing God, si revera Deum quaerit 2 . 

But, you may say, what is it to " seek God ? ” And by 
what means are we to find Him ? For it is needful to seek 
in such a 'way that we may ' find. To seek God constitutes 
the whole programme ; to find God and remain habitually 
united to Him by the bonds of faith and love, in this lies all 
perfection. 

Let us see what it is to seek God; — let us consider the 
conditions of this seeking ; we shall next see the fruits that 
it brings to whomsoever applies himself to it. We shall have 
pointed out at the same time, with the end that we pursue, 
the path that will lead us to perfection and beatitude. For 
if we truly seek God, nothing will prevent us from finding 
Him, and, in Him, we shall possess all good. 

I. 

We must seek God. T 

But is God in some place where He must be sought . ts 
He not everywhere ? Assuredly, as we know, God is ; m 
every being by His Presence, by His Power, and by His 
Essence. In God the operation is not separated from tne 
active virtue whence it is derived, and the power is identica 
with the essence. In every being, God operates by sustaining 
it in existence 3 . 

In this manner God is in every creature, for all exist and 
continue to exist only by an effect of the Divine action tna 

1. Holy Rule, ch. I. — 2. Ibid. ch. lviii. — 3 - S. Thomas, II Sent cut. Dtsl. 
xxxvii, q. I, a. 2. 



4 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

supposes God’s intimate presence. But reasonable beings 
can, moreover, know and love God, and thus possess Him 
in themselves. 

However, this kind of immanence was not sufficient for God 
as regards us. There is a more intimate and elevated degree 
of uni on. God does not content Himself with being the 
object of a natural knowledge and love on man's part, but 
He calls us to share His very life and His own beatitude. 

By a movement of infinite love towards us, God wishes 
to be for our souls not only the Sovereign Master of all things, 
but a Friend, a Father. It is His will that we should know 
Him as He knows Himself, the source of all truth and of 
all beauty. It is His Will that we should possess Him, the 
Infinite Good, here below in the dimness of faith, and above 
in the light of glory. 

To this end, as you know, He raises our nature above itself 
by adorning it with sanctifying grace, infused virtues and 
the gifts of the Spirit. God wills, by the communication of 
His infinite and eternal life, to be Himself our perfect beati- 
tude. He does not wish us to find our happiness apart from 
Himself, the plenitude of all good ; He leaves to no creature 
the power of satisfying our heart : ego merces tua magna 
nimis 1 " It is I myself who am thy reward exceeding great. ” 
And Our Lord confirmed His promise when about to pay 
the price thereof by the sacrifice of His Precious Blood. 
“ Father, I will that where I am, .they also whom Thou hast 
givenMe may be with Me; that they may see My glory... that 
the love wherewith Thou hast loved me, may be in them 2 . ” 

Such is the unique and supreme end to which we must 
tend; we have to seek God; not only the God of nature, 
but the God of Revelation. For us Christians, then, “ to 
seek God ”, is to tend towards Him, not only as simple 
creatures who move towards the first principle and last end 
of their being, but supernaturally, that is to say as children 
who wish to remain united to their Father with all their 
strength of will urged by love, and through that mysterious 
participation^ in the veiy nature of God, of which St. Peter 
speaks ; it is to have and to cultivate with the Divine 
f'ersons an intimacy so real and so profound, that St. John 
“* fellowship with the Father, and with His Son 
Jesus Chnst, " m their common Spirit 4 . 

« ? 1 * s fjie Psalmist alludes when he exhorts us to 

eek the face of God ” Qmerite faciem ejus semper 5 : that 

i, l -5. pi: c; v 7 4 : Cf - Joan ’ XV,I > *»■ 26 - - 3 . .11 Petr. 1, 4. - 4 - I Joan; 


TO SEEK GOD 


5 


, eek , tke friendship of God, to seek His love, r 

V bride A° ok ! ng , u P on the bridegroom seeks to 
behold in his eyes the depth of his soul telling her of his ! 

tenderness. God is to us a Father full of goodness. He 

Kirn hfu;! 6 " hfebdowwe should find our happiness in 
Him, in His ineffable perfections. 

.. f ^ Benedict has no other views for his disciples. From 
the first .lines of the Prologue, he warns us not to grieve by 

His e cMdren S ° ^ V0Uchsafcd to eount us among 

/' To attain to God, " this is the end that St. Benedict 
wishes us to have ever before our eyes. This principle, like 
a life-giving sap, circulates through all the articles of the 
monastic code. 

We have not come to the monastery then, in order to devote 
ourselves to science, nor the arts, nor the work of education 
It is true that the great Patriarch wishes us at all times to 
serve God with the good things He has given us : ei (Deo ) 
omm tempore de bonis suis in nobis parendum est 1 : He wishes 
the house of God to be wisely governed by prudent men 2 • 
doubtless this recommendation primarily foresees the mate- 
nal organisation, but it can be equally applied to the moral 
and intellectual life of the monastery. St. Benedict does not 
wish the talents given by God to remain hidden, he permits 
the cultivation of the arts; a constant tradition, which we 
ought humbly to respect, has in the same way sufficiently 
established for monks the legitimacy of studies and apostolic 
labours, and the Abbot, the head of the monastery, will 
certainly have it at heart to preserve the diverse manifesta- 
tions of monastic activity ; he will endeavour to develop for 
the common good, for the service of the Church, for the 
salvation of souls, and for God’s glory, the various aptitude 
that he finds in each of his monks. 

But once again, the end does not lie in this. All these 
works are only means in view of an end ; the end is higher : 
it is in God, it is God sought for Himself, as the Supreme 
Beatitude. ' 

Thus as we shall see later, the Divine worship itself neither 
constitutes nor can constitute the direct end that the 
monastic institution established by the Rule wills to attain. 

St. Benedict will have us seek God, — seek Him for His own 
glory, because we love Him above all things. He would have 
us seek to unite ourselves to Him by charity. There is not, 

Prologue of the Rule. — 2. Rule, eh. liii. 



6 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF. THE MONK 

for us, any other end, or any other perfection. The worship-, 
of God proceeds from the virtue of religion, doubtless the 
highest of the moral virtues, and it is united to the virtue 
of justice, but it is not a theological virtue. The infused 
theological virtues : faith, hope, and charity are the specific 
virtues of our state as children of God. Properly speaking, 
the supernatural life is based here below on these three 
virtues. They regard God directly inasmuch as He is the 
author of the supernatural order. Faith is like the root, hope 
the stalk, and charity at once the flower and the fruit of the 
supernatural life. 

Now, it is this charity, whereby we are and remain truly 
united to God, that constitutes the end assigned by 
St. Benedict and the very essence of perfection : Si revera 
DEUM quaerit. 

This end establishes the true greatness of the monastic 
life ; it also establishes the true reason of its existence. In 
the opinion of the Pseudo-Denys the Areopagite, we are given 
the name of " monks ” yoyo; " alone, one ” on account of 
this life of indivisible unity, whereby, withdrawing our mind 
from the distraction of manifold things, we hasten towards 
divine unity and towards the perfection of holy love K 

II. 


The ambition of possessing God: — such is the primal 
disposition that St. Benedict requires of the postulant who 
presents himself at the door of the monastery ; he sees in 
this a proof of a sure vocation ; but this disposition must 
extend to the monk s whole life. 


-m^°f the ab P° t hll P self > thc great Patriarch wishes that first 
and foremost he should seek “ the Kingdom of God 2 ” in 

abovp y plf S f Chr f^,? 0 1 mn ?anded ; that he should have care, 

to Ki m 3 U * Aif tab i Sb , thls kln S dom in the souls entrusted 

oueht tn n a wl al actlVlt y exerted in the monastery 
ought to have but this one end in view : TJt in omnibus 

fort C tl\ thineVl" ^ f aU tMngS God ma 7 be glorified <, . 

rt • Quaente faciem epis semper. You may say: 

v'm )—°l Zl -t ~ 2 ' Ho 'y *** «*. n (Of. Matth. 


TO SEEK GOD 


7 


but do we not possess God from the time of our baptism, 
and as long as \ye are in possession of sanctifying grace ? 
Undoubtedly. Then why seekGod,if we possess Him already? 

“ To seek God ”, is to remain united to Him by faith, it 
is to attach ourselves to Him as the object of our love. Now 
we know that this union of faith and love admits of a vast 
number of degrees. “ God is everywhere present, ” says 
St. Ambrose, “ but He is nearest to those who love Him; 
He dwells far from those who neglect His service ”. Dominus 
ubique semper est : sad est praesentior diligentibus, negligenlibus 
abest 1 . When we have found God, we can still seek Him, 
that is to say we can always draw nearer to God, by an ever 
intenser faith, an ever more fervent love, an ever more 
faithful accomplishment of His will, and this is why we can 
and ought always to seek God, until the day when ‘He will 
give Himself to us in an inamissible manner in the glorious 
splendour of His indefectible light. 

If we do not attain this end, we shall remain useless and 
unprofitable. The Psalmist says, — and St. Benedict quotes 
these words in the Prologue in commenting upon them, — 
that " the Lord hath looked down from heaven upon the 
children of men, to see if there be any that understand and 
seek God. They are all gone aside, they are become un- 
profitable together ”. Dominus de caelo prospexit super filios 
hominum ut videat si est intelligens aut requirens Deum; 
omnes declinaverunt, simul iniitiles facti sunt 2 . How many 
men indeed do not understand that God is the source of all 
good and the supreme end of every creature ? These men 
have turned aside from the road that leads to the end, they 
have become unprofitable. Why is this ? What is a useless 
being ? It is one that does not correspond to' the end for 
which it was created. For instance, in order to fulfil the 
end for which it is purchased, a watch must show the time. 
It may well be of gold, studded with diamonds, encrusted 
with precious stones, but unless it keeps time it is useless. 

We too become useless beings if we do not tend unceasingly 
to the end for which we came to the monastery. Now, this 
end is to seek God, to refer all to Him as to our Supreme End, 
to place in Him our sole beatitude ; all the rest is “ vanity 
of vanities 3 . ” If we do not act thus, we are useless, it is 
in vain that we spend ourselves ; even though this spending 
of ourselves should appear remarkable in the eyes of the 
world, in God’s sight, it would be that of profitless beings, 
who do not fulfil the conditions required by their existence, 

i. St. Ambrose. — '2. Ps. xm, 2-3. — 3. Eccle. 1, 2. 


8 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


and have lost sight of the end to which their vocation pre- 
destined them. How terrible is the uselessness of a human 
life ! And how much there is that is useless sometimes in 
our life, even our religious life, because God is absent from 
our actions !... 

Do not let us, then, be of those foolish people of which 
Scripture speaks, who are stayed by vain and passing trifles 1 . 
Let us be attentive to seek God in all things : in the Supe- 
riors, in our brethren, in all creatures, in the events of life, 
in the midst of contradiction as in hours of joy. 

Let us seek Him always, so as to be able unceasingly to 
put our lips to this source of beatitude ; we can always 
drink from it, without fear of seeing the waters exhausted, 
for, says St. Augustine, their abundance surpasses our need : 
Fons vincit sitientem. It is of them that Christ Jesus said 
that they become in the soul " a fountain of water, springing 
up into life everlasting 2 . " 

III. 


Another condition of the sincerity of our seeking is that 
it be , exclusive. Let us seek God solely ; I look upon this 
condition as capital. 

To seek God solely, that is without doubt the same as 
saying to seek God Himself. Notice the term " God, ” not 
the gifts of God, although they help us to remain faithful ; 
nor His consolations, although God wills that we taste the 
sweetness of His service 3 ; but we ought not to stop at these 
gifts nor be attached to these consolations. It is for God 
Himself that we have come to the monastery ; our seeking 
will then only be “ true, " as St. Benedict wishes it to be, 
it will only be pleasing to God, if we are attached to nothing 
apart from God. 


. we seek the creature, when we are attached to it 

it is as if we said to God : “ My God, I do not find all in Thee. ’ 
There are many souls who have need of something with God 
of something more than God ; God is not all for them : the\ 
cannot hke the Saint of Assisi, look at God and say to Him 
with all the truth of their being : “ My God and my All " : 
. et onima - They cannot repeat after St. Paul ; 
omnia detrmentum fen et arbitror ut stercora ut Christum 
lucrifaciam : I count all things to be but loss for the excellent 

the°lo s e s of e a°' fi- US Chri 'i t my Lor , d ; for Whom 1 ha ve suffered 
C h ri st 4 " 1 th gS ’ and count them as dun g that I may gair 


i. Sap. iv, 


— 2. Joan, iv, 14.— 3. Cf. Ps. xxxm, 9. 


— 4. Philip, iii, 8. 


TO SEEK GOD 9 

Never forget this extremely important truth : as long as 
we experience the need of a creature, and are attached to 
it, we cannot say that we seek God solely, and God will not 
give Himself entirely to us. If it is our will that our 
search be sincere, — si REVERA quaerit, — if we want to find 
God fully, we must detach ourselves from all that is not 
God, and that would shackle in us the operation of His grace. 

This is the doctrine of the saints. Listen to what St. 
Catherine of Sienna said on her deathbed. Feeling her end 
approaching, she gathered her spiritual family around her, 
and gave them her last instructions which have been collected 
by her confessor, the Blessed Raymund of Capua : " Her 
first and fundamental teaching was that he who enters into 
the service of God, ought necessarily, if he truly wishes to 
possess God, to root out from his heart all sensible affection, 
not only for persons but moreover for any creature whatever, 
and tend towards His Divine Creator in the simplicity of 
an undivided love. For the heart cannot be given entirely 
to God if it is not free from all other love, and if it does 
not open itself with a frankness exclusive of all reserve 1 . ” 

St. Teresa, speaking from the same experience says, " We 
are so miserly, so slow in giving ourselves to God that we never 
finish putting ourselves into the necessary dispositions. And 
yet Our Lord will not allow us to enter into the enjoyment 
of so precious a treasure (the perfect possession of God) 
without paying a high price for it. I see clearly that there 
is nothing upon earth wherewith it can be, purchased. ” How- 
ever, the Saint adds, “ if we did all that depended upon 
ourselves not to cling to anything earthly, if our conversation 
and all our thoughts were in heaven, such a treasure I am 
convinced would be granted to us. " The Saint next shows 
by some examples how it often happens that we give ourselves 
to God, entirely, but afterwards take back little by little what 
we have given ; and she concludes : " A nice way for- 
sooth to seek the love of God ! We must have it at once 
and. "in handfuls” as the saying is, but on condition of 
retaining our affections. To take possession of it, we do not 
make any effort to fulfil our good desires, we allow them 
to drag miserably upon the earth. And with all this, we 
must moreover have many spiritual consolations ! Truly 
they will not be granted to us. In my opinion, these two ’ 
things are quite incompatible. Therefore it is because out 
gift is, not entire that we do not receive without delay the ; 
treasure of divine love 2 . ” 

1. Life by Raymund of Capua. — 2. Lite by her sel/, ch. xi. 



XO CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

It is to find God, " to please Him alone, ” that, after the 
example of the great Patriarch, we have left all : Soli Deo 
placer c desiderans, says St. Gregory 1 . We must always 
remain in this fundamental disposition. It is only at this 
price that we shall find God. If, on the contrary, forgetting 
little by little our initial gift, we allow ourselves to turn 
aside from this supreme aim, if we cling to some person, 
some employment, some charge, some work or occupation, 
some object, then, let us be convinced of this, we shall 
never possess God fully. 

Oh 1 if we could say, and say in all truth, what the Apostle 
P hili p said to Jesus : “ Lord, shew us the Father, and it is 
enough for us 1 " But in order to be able to say this in truth, 
we must also be able to say with the Apostles : " Lord, we 
have left all things and have followed Thee... ” Happy are 
they who carry out this desire to its end, to extreme, actual 
and perfect renunciation 1 But let them not say : this trifle 
to which I cling is nothing. Do you not know the nature 
of the human heart ? However little we leave to it, it will 
not be content till it has obtained all its desire. Tear all 
away, break all asunder, hold to nothing. Happy indeed are 
they to whom it is given to carry out this desire to the end, 
to pursue it even to attainment s . 


If we seek God in spite of every trial, if each day, each 
hour, we give Him this homage, so extremely pleasing to Him, 
which consists of placing in Him, and in Him alone, our 
beatitude ; if we never seek anything but His will ; if we act, 
in such a way that His good pleasure is the true motive 
power of all our activity, God will never fail us. " God is 
faithful 2 3 He cannot forsake those who seek Him : Non 
dereliquisti quaerentes te,Domine A The nearer we approach 
Him by faith, confidence and love, the nearer we approach 
our perfection. As God is the principal author of our holi- 
ness, since it is supernatural, to draw near to Him, to remain 
united to Him by charity constitutes the very condition of 
our perfection. The more we set ourselves free from all sin, 
from all imperfection, from all creatures, from all human 
springs of action, in order to think only of Him, to seek only 
His good pleasure, the more, too, life will abound in us and 
God will fill us with Himself : Quaerile Deum, et vivel anima 
vestra 5 . 


1. 1 Dialog. lib. n. — ■ 
2 nd part, 83 rd day. — 


2. Bossuet, Meditations upon the Gospel, The LastSupper. 

3. Thess. v, 25. - 4. Ps. ix, ,1. _ ' 5 . p s . ,. XVI1I> 33 ; p ' 


TO SEEK GOD 


II 


There are souls who so sincerely seek God that they are 
wholly possessed by Him, and no longer know how to live 
without Him. “ I declare to you, ” a holy Benedictine nun, 
the Blessed Bonomo, wrote to her father, " that it is not I 
that live, but another in me Who has entire possession of 
me ; He is my absolute Master. 0 God ! I know not how to 
drive Him from me 1 !... ” 

When the soul is thus wholly given to God, God also gives 
1 Himself to the soul, He takes a particular care of her ; one 
might at times say that for such a soul God forgets the rest 
of the universe. Look at St. Gertrude. You know what a 
special love Our Lord manifested towards her ; He declared 
that He had not then upon the earth " any creature towards 
whom He stooped with more delight 2 ; to the point that 
he added He would always be found in the heart of Gertrude, 
whose least desires He loved to fulfil. One who knew 
of this great intimacy dared to ask Our Lord what were 
the attractions whereby St. Gertrude had merited a like 
preference. “ I love her in this way ” replied Our Lord, " on 
account of her liberty of heart wherein nothing enters that 
can dispute the sovereignty with Me. ” Thus because, entirely 
detached from every creature, she sought God only in all 
things, this Saint merited to be the object of divine delight 
truly ineffable and extraordinary. 

Let us, then, seek God always and in all, after the example 
of this great soul, herself a worthy daughter of the great 
Patriarch ; let us seek Him sincerely, from the depth of our 
hearts. Let us often say to Him like the Psalmist : “ Thy 
face, 0 Lord, will I seek ". Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram 3 . 
" For what have I in heaven, and besides Thee what do I 
desire upon earth ?... Thou art the God of my heart, and the 
God that is my portion for ever ” Quid enim mihi est in 
caelo, et a te quid volui super terram? Deus cordis mei et 
pars mea Deus in aeternum 4 . My God, Thou art so great, 
so beautiful, so good, that, as Thou knowest, Thou dost 
fully suffice me. Let others cling to human love, not only 
dost Thou permit it but Thy Providence has established 
that it should be so, and this mission of preparing the elect 
for Thy Kingdom is a great and high mission : Thy Apostle 
says : Sacramenlum hoc magnum est 5 ; Thou givest abun- 
dant blessings to those who observe Thy law in this state 
As for me, I want Thee alone so that my heart may be un- 

i. D. du Bourtf, La Bse J . M. Bonomo, moniale bdnddicline, Paris i9 IO » P* 5*5. 
• — 2. Herald of Divine Love. Book I, chap. hi. — 3. Ps. xxvi, 8. 4* Ps* 

LXXI1, 25*26. — 5. ERh. v, 32. — 6. Ps. cxxvu. 





I2 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

divided and solicitous only for the interests of Thy glory 
and may cleave to Thee without impediment 1 . 

And when created things present themselves to us, let us 
say inwardly i Disced c a me, pabulum mortis: Depart from 

me, for thou art the prey of. death 2 .” 

If we act in this way, we shall find God, and with Him 
all good things. " Seek Me, ” He says Himself to the soul, 
“ with that simplicity of heart which is born of sincerity, 
for I am found by them that tempt me not, and shew Myself 
to them that have faith in Me. " 3 


In finding God, we shall likewise possess joy. 

We were made to be happy ; the human heart has a capacity 
for the infinite ; only God can fully satisfy us. " Thou didst 
make us for Thyself, 0 Lord, and our heart is restless until 
it finds its rest in Thee ” : Fecisti nos ad te, et inquietum est 
cor nostrum, donee requiescal in te*. This is why when we 
seek anything apart from God or from His will, we do not 
find stable and perfect happiness. 

It may be said that in any rather numerous religious 
community, different categories of souls are to be met with. 
You will see some living in continual gladness. Their inward 
joy radiates outwardly. I am not now speaking of that sen- 
sible joy which often depends upon the temperament, the 
state of health, or of circumstances independent of the will, 
but of joy abiding in the depth, of the soul which is like a 
foretaste of heavenly bliss. Have> these souls then never any 
trials ? Have they no conflicts to sustain, nor contradictions 
to undergo ? Certainly they have, for each disciple of Jesus 
Christ has to carry his cross 6 ; but the fervour of grace and 
divine unction make them endure these sufferings joyfully. 
Other souls do not feel this gladness ; inwardly, and often 
even outwardly, they are troubled, distressed, unhappy. 
Whence comes this difference ? 


Because the first seek God in all things, and seeking Him 
alone they find Him everywhere, and, with Him, supreme 
good and unchanging bliss : Bonus est Dominus animae quae- 
renti ilium, 8 . The others are either attached to created 
things or seek themselves, by egotism, self-love, levity ; and 
it is themselves too that they find — themselves, that is to 
say nothingness, and this cannot content them, for the 
soul, created for God thirsts after perfect good. " What fills 
your mind ? Where your thoughts naturally turn, there is 
your treasure, there is your heart. If it is God, you are 

r ; L C ? r ' vu ’ 32 , 35 - -2. Office of St Agnes, I«tAnt. I Noct. — 2 San 1 1-2. 
- 4 . s. Aug. Con/. Lib. i, c. i. - 5. Cf. Luc. ixj 23. _ 6. Thren. m, 25? ’ 


TO SEEK GOD 


13 


happy if it is anything mortal, unceasingly consumed by 
rust, corruption, mortality, your treasure will escape you, 
and your heart will remain poor and arid 1 . ” 

When a man of the world tires of his own hearth, he forgets 
his boredom by seeking distractions outside ; he goes to his 
Club, or he travels. But the religious has not these resources; 
he has to stay in his monastery, where the regular life, with 
its successive exercises for which the bell inexorably rings, 
is uninterrupted by those natural distractions which people 
in the world may lawfully seek ; with souls for whom God 
is not all, weariness easily slips into that monotony inherent 
to all regular life ; and when the monk does not find God, 
because he does not seek God, he is very near estimating 
that the burden he has to carry is too heavy. 

He could, doubtless, become absorbed in an occupation, 
torget himself in his work, but, says Blosius, this is an insuffi- 
cient and illusory diversion : Quidquid praeter Deum quaeritur 
mentem occupat, non satiat 2 . And why is this ? Because, 
especially in the monastery, there are always hours when a 
man has to come face to face with himself, that is to say 
with his own nothingness ; the soul in its depths does not 
taste that transporting joy, it does not experience that deep 
and peaceful fervour which is given by the intimate nearness 
of God ; it does not go straight to God ; it hovers unceasingly 
around Him without ever finding Him perfectly. 

But when the soul seeks God, and seeks Him alone, when it 
teDds towards Him with all its energies, when it clings to 
no created thing, God fills it with joy, with that overflowing 
joy of which St. Benedict speaks when he says that in the 
measure wherein faith, and with it hope and love increase 
in the soul of the monk, he runs, “ with heart enlarged and 
unspeakable sweetness of love, in the way of God’s command- 
ments " : Dilatato corde, inenarrabili dilectionis ditlcedine cur- 
riiur via mandator um Dei 3 . . 

Let us then often repeat like that great monk St. Bernard : 
Ad quid venisti? " Wherefore have I come ? " Why have 
I left the world ? Why have I separated myself from all 
who were dear to me ? Why have I renounced my liberty ?. 
Why have I made so many and such great sacrifices ? Did 
I come to give myself up to intellectual labours ? To gain 

1. Bossuet. Meditations on the Gospel, Sermon on the Mount. 29 th day. ■ — 2. 
Canon vitae spirilualis, c. 15. The great Abbot was moreover in this but the 
echo of an old monk: Ad imagmem Dei jacta est anima rationalis ; caeteris 
omnibus occupari potest, repleri non potest ; capacem Dei quidquid Deo minus 
est non implebit. P. L. i. 184, col. 455. — 3. Prologue to the Holy Rule. 






CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

knowledge ? To occupy myself with the arts, or with 
teaching? 

No, we came, never let us forget this, for one thing, and 
one thing only : “ to seek God Si revera Deum quaerit. 

It was to win this one precious pearl of the possession of God 
that we renounced everything : Inventa una pretiosa marga- 
rita vendidit omnia quae liabuit et emit earn 1 . 

We should examine ourselves to see to what degree we 
seek God, to what point we are detached from the creature. 
If we are loyal, God will show us what there is in us that 
hinders us from going to Him with all our heart. Our end 
and our glory is to seek God ; it is a very high vocation, that 
of belonging to the race of those who seek God : Haec est 
generatio quaerentium eum 2 ; in choosing the one thing 
necessary, we have chosen the better part : Hereditas mea 
praeclara est mihi 3 . 

Let us remain faithful to this sublime vocation. We shall 
not arrive at the realisation of our ideal in a day nor yet 
in a year; we shall not arrive at it without difficulty or 
without sufferings, for that purity of affection, that absolute 
detachment, full and constant, which God requires of us 
before giving Himself entirely to us, is only gained by much 
generosity ; but if we have decided to give ourselves com- 
pletely to God, without reservation, and never to bargain 
with Him for the least corner of our heart, to admit no 
attachment, however slight it may be to any creature, let us 
be assured that God will reward our efforts by the perfect 
possession of Himself, wherein we shall find all our beatitude. 
" With what mercy God treats a soul, " says St. Teresa, 

when He bestows upon her grace and courage to devote 
herself generously and with all her might to the pursuit of 
such a good ! Let her but persevere, God refuses Himself to 
none : little by little He will increase her courage, and finally 
she will gain the victory 4 . ” 

When we are thoroughly resolved, ’’ wrote a soul 
11 ™derstood how God is everything, and knew 
faithfully how to seek God alone, “ it is only the first 
s eps that count; for from the moment that our well beloved 
Saviour sees our good will, He does all the rest. I will refuse 
plnmipnf ° tu SUS Wkose love urges me. You know how 
eno^ht - the V01 ^ of J esus - Besides, no one is foolish 

that i h tl B gl T, e , Up wilole for a P art The love of Jesus. 

„ th ® whole the rest, whatever one may think, is but 

neghgable quantity, despicable even, in contrast with our 

1. Mattb. xiii, 46. - 2 . p s . XX1II| 6 _ 3 Ps xy> g __ ^ L & p ^ 


TO SEEK GOD 


15 


unique treasure. I am resolved to surrender myself to the 
love of Christ. I am indifferent to all else ; I wish to love 
Him even to folly ; men may break and crush my will and 
understanding, all that you will, but I do not intend to let go 
of the sole good, our Divine Jesus, or rather I feel that it 
is He Who will not let me go. It is needful that our souls 
should please Jesus, but no other person 1 ." 


In this seeking after God, the principle of our holiness, 
we cannot find a better model than Christ Jesus Himself. 

But, you will at once say, how is this, can Christ be our 
Model ? how could He “ seek God, ” since He was God 
Himself ? 

It is true that Jesus is God,, the true God come forth from 
God, the Light arising from the Uncreated Light 2 , the Son 
of the Living God, equal to the Father. But He is likewise 
man ; He is authentically one of us, through His human 
nature. And although this human nature is united in an 
indissoluble way to the Divine Person of the Word, although 
the holy soul of Jesus has ceaselessly enjoyed the delights of 
the Beatific Vision, although it has been drawn into the 
divine current which necessarily bears the Son towards the 
Father, it remains true to say that Christ’s human activity, 
which was derived from His human faculties as from its 
immediate sources, was sovereignly free. 

It is in the exercise of this free activity that we can find 
in Jesus that which we call the “ seeking after God. " j What 
are the innermost aspirations of His soul, those to which He 
Himself refers all His mission, and in which He sums up all 
His life ? . ■ ■ . 

St. Paul tells us ; he raises for us a corner of the veil to 
enable us to penetrate into the Holy of Holies. He tells us 
that the first throb of the soul of Jesus on entering into this 
world was one of infinite intensity towards His Father: 
Ingrediens mundum, dicit:... Ecc-e venio, in capite libri scri- 
ptum est de me: nt faciam, Deits, voluntatem tuam 3 . 

And we see Christ Jesus, like a giant, rejoice to run the way, 
in the pursuit of the glory of His Father. This is His primal 
disposition. Let us hear how, in the Gospel, He clearly tells 
us so. " I seek not My own will, but the will of Him that 
sent Me 4 . " To the Jews, He proves that He comes from 
God, that His doctrine is divine, because He seeks the glory 

i. Une dim binidictine, D. Pie de Hentplinne. 5 8 fidit., p. 264. — 2. Credo (it 
the Mass. — 3. Hebr. x, 5-7. — 4. Joan, v, 30. 



l6 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF. THE MONK 

of Him that sent Him 1 . He seeks it to such a degree that 
He has no solicitude for His own a . He has ever these words 
upon His lips : “ My Father ; ” His whole life is but the 
magnificent echo of this cry: Abba, (Pater). All for Him 
is summed up in seeking the will and the glory of His Father. 

And what constancy in this search 1 He Himself declares 
to us that He never deviated from it : " I do always the 

things that please [my Father] ” : Quae placita sunt ei facto 
semper* ; at the supreme hour of His last farewell, at the 
moment when about to deliver Himself up to death, He 
telles us that all the mission He had received from His 
Father was accomplished 4 . 

Nothing, moreover, stayed Him in this search. It was to 
pursue it that at the age of twelve years He left His Mother, 
the Blessed Virgin, at Jerusalem. Never did child love his 
Mother as Jesus loved the Blessed Virgin. Put together all the 
love that can animate the heart of a son ; it is only a flickering 
spark beside this furnace of the love of Jesus for His Mother. 
And yet, as soon as it concerns His Father’s will, or His 
gloiy, one would say that this love no longer counts for 
anything. Jesus knew into what an abyss of anguish 
He plunged His Mother’s heart during three days, but 
the interests of His Father required it, and hence He did 
not hesitate : " Did you not know that I must be about 
My Father’s business ? B ” These words fallen from the lips 
of Jesus, are the first that have been gathered up by the 
Gospel. Christ therein sums up all His Person, condenses 
all His Mission. 

. The sorrows and the ignominies of the Passion, even death 
itself, does not diminish this burning fervour of the Heart 
of Jesus for His Father’s glory; quite the contrary. It is 
because in all things He seeks the will of the Father, as ' 
manifested by the Scriptures, that He delivers Himself, out 
rL ° Tu° th \ t0rm T ts ? f the Cr °ss : Ut impleantur scriptu- 
0f a river . do not rush towards the ocean 
with more majestic impetuosity than the soul of Tesus tended 

w^ a t?DWe r< H- tIle 9f springs wherein the Passion 
1 ■ aS +£ ff" 11 ' That the world may know that I 

mint h so F d 0 h T’’’ an Ft a V h / Fath f hath S iven Me command- 
ment, so do I . Et sicut mandatum dedit mihi Pater, sic 


If, as God, Jesus is the term of our seeking, as Man, He 

- 5. J Luc. IW9.-6.VX xlv,’ 3 ?; ~ 4 ‘ Ibid ' xv,, » 


TO SEEK GOD 


17 

is the unique Exemplar wherefrom we ought never to turn 
our gaze. Let us take to ourselves these words and say : 
Ingrediens monaster ium , dtxi .* Ecce venio. On the day of my 
entering the monastery I said : Behold I come. In the head 
of the Rule, which is for me the book of Thy goodpleasure, 
it is written that I should seek Thee in doing Thy will, for 
it is to Thee, 0 My heavenly Father, that I will to attain. 

And in the same way as Christ Jesus rejoices “ to run the 
way ” ad currendam viam 1 , let us run in His train, since He 
is Himself the Way. "Run," says St. Benedict, "while 
ye have the light of life ; ” carried along by the holy desire 
of reaching the Kingdom where our heavenly Father awaits 
us, let us press forward unceasingly in the practise of good 
deeds ; that is the indispensable condition for attaining the 
goal. Nisi illuc bonis actibus currendo minime pervenitur a . 

And again in the same way as Christ Jesus, coming down 
from heaven, only finished His glorious course when He gain- 
ed the height of heaven ; El occursus ejus usque ad summum 
ejits 3 , so let us not grow weary, as we follow after Him, 
in seeking God, in seeking Him solely, until we arrive at 
that which the great Patriarch so well calls, at the close of 
his Rule, the culmina virtu turn, the celsitudo perfectionist, the 
“ lofty summits of virtue, " " the heights of perfection. ” 
The soul thus " arrived ” lives habitually united to God 
Whom she seeks, she has already a foretaste of the delights 
of the ineffable union which is attained in the beatitude of 
the Father’s Bosom : apud Patrem. 

" O Lord, my God, my one hope, hear me so that I may 
never weary of seeking Thee, but that with unfailing ardour 
my soul may ever ' seek Thy Countenance. Grant the 
strength 1 to seek Thee, O Thou Who givest the grace to 
find Thee after having more and more given the, hope of 
attaining Thee B . " 

i. Ps. xviii, 6. — 2. Prologue to the Rule. — 3. Ps. xvm, 7. — • 4 • Rule, 
ch, i.xxiii. — 5. Domine Deus mens, ttna spes mea, exaudi me, ne fatigatm 
nohm te qiiaerere, srd quacram taciem iuam semper ardenter . Tu da quaerendi 
vires qui invenire te jecisti, et • tnagis magisque inveniendi te spent dedisti l 
S. Augustin. De Trinitate, 1, xv, c. 28. 


NOTE ■ 

" SEEKING AFTER GOD ”, ACCORDING TO ST. BERNARD. 

“ It is a great good, this will to seek God. In my opinion it deserves to 
be esteemed second to none 0 1 all the goods of the soul. It is the first grace 



!§ CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

which the soul receives, and it is also the last advance she makes in her pro- 
cress towards perfection. It follows after no virtue, neither does it yield 
place to any. What virtue can it be supposed to follow, sinco it is preceded 
by none ? Or to what virtue can it give place, since it is itself the crown 
and consummation of all ? For how can any virtue be ascribed to the man 
who has not the will to seek God ? And as to him who does seek God, what 
term shall be appointed for his seeking ? " Seek His Face evermore ", says 
the Psalmist, by which he implies, as it seems to me, that even after God has 
been found He shall not cease to be sought. For it is not by bodily locomotion 
that we have to seek God, but by fervent desire. Now this desire, so far from 
being extinguished by the happy attainment of its Object, is on the contrary 
greatly intensified. How is it possible that the consummation of joy should 
be the exclusion of desire ? It would be more true to say that the former 
is to the latter as oil to flame, because desire is in truth a flame. So it is, 
my brethren. The joy is made perfect, yet there is no end to the desire, 
and by consequence no end to the seeking. But conceive (if you can) of 
this eager seeking as implying no absence of what is sought, and of this ardent 
desire as being accompanied by no solicitude. For absence is incompatible 
with possession and solicitude with security of tenure >. In Cantica, Senri. 
LXXXIV, i, translated by a priest of Mount Melleray. 


II. - THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST. 


Summary. — In consequence of sin, the “ seeking after God ” takes 
the character of a " returning to God ; " this is carried into 
effect by following Christ. — I. Christ is the Way by His 
teaching and example. — II. He is the supreme High Priest 
Who binds us to God. — III. The Fountainhead of grace where- 
from we may draw the necessary help. — IV. These truths 
apply to religious perfection : Christ is "the Religious” super- 
eminently. — V. How the Rule of St. Benedict is permeated 
with these truths ; its character is " Christocentric ”. 

T he object of our life is " to seek God ; ” that . is our 
destiny, our vocation. This vocation is incomparably 
high, because every creature, even the angelic 
creature, is of its nature infinitely far removed from God. 
God is the fulness of Being and of all perfection ; and every 
creature, however perfect it may be, is only a being drawn 
out of nothing and possesses only a borrowed perfection. 

Moreover, as we have said, the end of a free creature is, 
in itself, proportioned to the nature of this creature ; as every 
created being is " finite, ” the beatitude to which it has a 
right by nature is necessarily limited. But God, in immense 
condescension, has willed to admit us to share His intimate 
life in the bosom of His Adorable Trinity, to enjoy His own 
Divine Beatitude. This Beatitude, placed infinitely beyond 
our nature, constitutes our last end and the foundation of 
the supernatural order. 

You know that from the time when He first formed man, 
God has called us universally to this beatitude : Adam, the 
head of the human race, was created in supernatural "justice;” 
his soul, filled with grace, illuminated with divine light 
was entirely set towards God. He possessed the gift of 
integrity by which his lower faculties were fully subjected 
to reason while reason was fully subjected to the Divine 
Will : all, in the head of our race, was perfectly in harmony. 

Adam sinned, he separated himself from God, and drew 
all his descendants after him into his revolt and misery. 
All — the Blessed Virgin Mary excepted — are conceived 
with the imprint of his apostacy ; in each one of us God 
beholds the trace of our first father’s rebellion : that is why 


1 



CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


we arc bom " children of wrath ”, filii true \ sons of dis- 
obedience, far removed from God, turned away from God. 

The consequence of this state of things is that " the 
seeking after God " takes for us the character of a " returning 
to God ” Whom we have lost. Drawn into the original 
solidarity, we have all forsaken God by sin in order to turn 
to the creature ; the parable of the Prodigal Son is but the 
picture of all the human race that has left the Heavenly 
Father and must return to Him. It is this character of 
a “ return " deeply imprinted on the Christian life that 
St. Benedict teaches, as a master, from the first lines of 
the Prologue to whomsoever comes to him : " Hearken, 0 my 
son... incline the ear of thy heart... that thou mayest return 
to Him from Whom thou hast departed " : Ausculta, o fili... 
et inclina aurem cordis tui ut ad eum... redeas a quo... 
reccsseras. This is the well-determined and precise end. 

Now, by what path are we “ to return to God ? " It is 
extremely important that we should know it. In fact if we do 
not take this path, we shall not come to God, we shall miss 
our end. For we must never forget that our holiness is a 
supernatural holiness, we cannot acquire it by our own efforts. 
If God had not raised us to the supernatural order, if He had 
not placed our beatitude in His intimate glory, we might have 
been able to seek Him by the light of reason, and attain, 
by natural means, a natural perfection and beatitude. God 
did not will this : He has raised man to a supernatural state, 
ecause He destined him for a beatitude which surpasses all 
the exigences and powers of our nature. Outside this destiny 
there is nothing but error and damnation. 

And what is true of the way of salvation, in general, is 
equally so of perfection and of holiness which are but a 
higher way of salvation : they likewise belong to the super- 
natural order ; a man’s most finished perfection in the merely 
natural domain has of itself no value for eternal life. There 


are not two states of perfection for us nor two beatitudes 
we mavma! y natur ^' the otl J er supernatural, between which 
S the sunPrSt r i T- rr NoW ’ aS God is the sole Author 
Pkiure " ° r ! er ’ S e al0ne “ acc< >r<iing to His good 

road wLr’ebv tn a “ hen f« c ^™.m s \ can show us the 

*,° ‘”“ C “ Hi “ 


i. Eph. ir, 3. _ 2 . Ibid. t| 9 . 


THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST 


21 


for themselves, they want to be the architects of their own 
perfection, built up according to their personal conceptions ; 
they do not understand God’s plan as it concerns them, or 
else they do not adapt themselves to it. These souls make 
some progress, certainly, because the goodness of God is 
. infinite and His grace ever fruitful ; but they do not fly in 
the way that leads to God, they go haltingly all their life. 
The more I come in contact with souls, the more assured I 
am that it is already a most precious grace to know this 
Divine Plan ; to have recourse to it is a source of continual 
communication of divine grace ; to adapt oneself to it is the 
very substance of sanctity. 

But has God made known to us His Will ? Yes, as 
St. Paul says. He has revealed to us the secret " hidden from 
eternity ” : Sacramentum abscon'ditum a saeculis. 1 And what 
is this secret ? What are these Divine thoughts ? St. Paul 
has disclosed to us the Divine Plan in four words : Instaurare 
omnia in Christo 2 . God has willed " to rerestablish all things 
in Christ " or better, according to the Greek term “ to re- 
capitulate all things in Christ'. ’’ 

The Christ, the Divine Word, Son of God, become Son of 
Adam by being born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is constituted 
the Head of the race of the elect in order to bring all those 
who believe in . Him to God His Father. As Man-God, 
Christ will repair the sin committed by Adam, will restore 
to us the Divine adoption, re-open the gates of Heaven and 
bring us thither by His grace. This is in a few words the 
Divine Plan. 

Let us contemplate for a few moments this plan of God 
for us and try to comprehend its height and depth, compre- 
kendere... quae sit... sublimitas et profundum...ut impleamini 
in omnem plenitudinem Dei 3 , that we “ may be filled unto all 
the fulness of God. ’’ God wishes to give us all things, to 
give Himself entirely to us, but He only gives Himself by 
Christ, in Christ and with Christ : Per Ipsum, cum Ipso, in 
Ipso*. This is God’s secret for us. Let us contemplate it 
with faith and reverence, for it infinitely surpasses all oiu: 
conceptions. Let us also contemplate it with love, for it is 
itself theefruit of love : Sic Detcs dilexit mundum 5 . It is 
because God loved us that He has given us His Son, and 
through Him and in Him, every good. 

What then is Christ Jesus for us ? 

He is the Way ; He is the High Priest ; He is the Fountain- 

». Cf. Eph. Ill, 9 ; Col. i, 26. — 2. Eph. 1 , 10. — 3- iu i l8 ' J 9’ ~ 4* 
* Canon of. the Mass. ■ — 5. Joan, hi, 16. 



22 CHRIST, THE IDEAL 0F- THE MONK 

head of grace. He is the Way by His doctrine and example ; 
He is the supreme High Priest, Who was merited for us, by 
His sacrifice, the power to follow in the way which He 
has established ; He is the Fountain of grace wherefrom we 
draw strength to persevere in the path that leads to “ the 
holy mountain ” : Usque ad montem Dei 1 . 

We will first of all listen to the very words of the Holy 
Spirit ; next we will take up in respectful parallelism the 
corresponding teaching repeated by the one who was, accord- 
ing to St. Gregory, his first biographer, " filled with the spirit 
of all the just 2 . ” * 

I. 


Christ is the Way. 

God wills that we should seek Him as He is in Himself, 
in a way conformable to our supernatural end. But, says 
St. Paul, God " inhabitetli light inaccessible 3 , ” He dwells in 
very holiness : Tu autem in sancto habilas 4 . How then are 
we to attain to Him ? Through Christ. Christ Jesus is the 
Word Incarnate, the Man-God. He it is Who becomes 


our Way”: Ego sum via 5 . This way is sure, infallible, 
it leads to eternal light : Qui sequilur Me non ambulat in 
tenebris, sed habebit lumen vitae 5 , but above all, never let 
us forget, this way is unique, there is no other.’ As Jesus 
says : “ No man cometh to the Father but by Me " : Nemo 
venit ad Palrem nisi per Me’’. Ad Pattern, that is to say 
to life everlasting, to God loved and possessed in Himself 
in the intimate secret of His beatifying Trinity. So then in 
order to find God, to attain the end of our search, we have 
only to follow Christ Jesus. 

And how is Christ the Way that leads us to God ? By 
His teachmg and His example : Coepit facere et docere 8 . 

. As , 1 have said, God wills that we should seek Him as He 

Whn i! ™ i her S f0re firs c t 1 ™ ow Him. Now Jesus Christ 
Z B ° som ? f the Father”, in sinu Pattis ». 
reveals God to us : Umgentlus... ipse enarravil 10 /God is made 

S y 7/ he ^ ° f HiS S ° n : Deus - Muxit in cordl 
cl Jl r Mummationsm scientiae clariialis Dei in jade 

” m’!'"' bU ‘ H “ that !ont Me ‘ ! : ”•••■ “ I speak tim'wMcb 

re!'— 4 . pf xx*’ 4 f ‘ — 5 . 2 joan G xiv ^t—h ‘n,-,/ 1 ' c * vm - — 3- I Tim. vi, 

™, 8 ie Act ' ■' 1 ‘ - * J“»- '• *»'• ~ io. ibid -'xx.n'co?: ,7, 7 e: 


THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST 


23 


I have seen with My Father ” : Ego quod vidi apud Pattern 
meum loquor 1 ; I do not deceive you, for I " have spoken the 
truth to you " : Veritatem vobis loculus sum 2 ; " I am the 
Truth " : Ego sum vet Has 5 ; those who seek God must do so 
" in spirit and in truth ” : In spiritu et veritate oportet adorate 1 ; 

“ the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life B ; . 
if you continue in My word... you shall know the truth ” 

Si vos manseritis in setmone meo... cognoscetis veritatem 3 . 

“ I have not spoken of Myself : but the Father Who sent 
Me, He gave Me commandment what I should say and what 
I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life 
everlasting " : Quia ego ex meipso non sum loculus, sed qui 
misit Me Pater, ipse mihi mandatum dedit quid dicam et quid 
loquor ; et scio quia mandatum ejus vita aeterna esf 1 . 

The Father moreover confirms this testimony of the Son : 

” Hear ye Him ; " for He is My own Son in Whom I have 
placed all My delights : Ipsum audite 8 . 

Let us then hear this word, this doctrine of Jesus : it is 
first of all through this doctrine that He is our Way; let us 
say to Him with ardent faith, like St. Peter : " Lord, to Whom - 
shall we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal life ” : Verba 
vitae aeternae babes 5 . We truly believe that Thou art the 
Divine Word, come down on our earth in order to teach us ; 
Thou art truly God, speaking to our souls ; for God " in 
these days, hath spoken to us by His Son " : Novissime 
locutus est nobis in Filio 10 . We believe in Thee, O Christ, 
we accept all that Thou dost tell us of the Divine secrets, 
and because we accept Thy words, we give ourselves to 
Thee in order to live by Thy Gospel. Thou didst say that 
if we would be perfect, we must leave all to follow Thee 11 ; 
we believe this and we have come, having left all things 13 
to be Thy disciples. Lead us. Thou, Indefectible Light, for 
in Tbee we have the most invincible hope. Thou wilt not 
reject us ; we come to Thee that we may be brought to the 
Father. Thou hast declared : “ Him that cometh to Me, I 
will not cast out ” : Et eum qui venit ad me non ejiciam foras 13 . 

Again Jesus is the Way by His example. 

He is perfect God, the sole-begotten Son of God : Deum 
de Dco u ; but He is also perfect Man ; He belongs authen- 
tically to our race. You know that from His two-fold nature 
flows a two-fold activity; a divine activity, and a human 

i. Joan, vin, 38. — 2. Ibid, 40. — 3. Ibid, xiv, 6. — 4. Ibid, iv, 24. — 5. 
Ibid, VI, 64. — 6. Ibid vm, 31-32 — 7- Ibid, xii, 49-50. — 8. Matth. xvil, 5. 

— 9. Joan, vi, 69. — 10. Hebr. 1, 2. — 11. Matth. xix, 21. — 12. Ibid, 27. 

— 13. Joan, vi, 37. — 14. Credo of the Mass. 



24 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


activity, but these two activities are not confounded, any 
more than the two natures are confounded, although ineffably 
united in one and the same Person. 

Christ is the revelation of God adapted to our weakness ; 
He is the manifestation of God under a human form. " He 
that seeth Me, ” Christ has said " seeth the Father also ” : 
Qui videt me, videt et Pattern*-. He is God living amongst 
us and showing us by this tangible human life how we ought 
to live in order to please our Father in Heaven. 

All that Jesus accomplished was perfect, not only because 
of the love wherewith He accomplished it, but also in the 
manner He brought it to fruition ; and all that Jesus did, 
even His least actions, were the actions of a God and infinitely 
pleasing to His Father : they.are consequently for us examples 
to be followed, models of perfection : Exemplum dedi vobis 
ut guemadmodum ego fed ita .el vos jadatis 2 . In imitating 
Christ Jesus, we are sure of being, like Him, although under 
a different title, pleasing to His Father. " The life of Christ,’’ 
said a holy monk who spoke from experience, " is an excellent 
book for the learned and the ignorant, the perfect and the 
imperfect, who desire to please God. He who reads it 
carefully and frequently, attains high wisdom, and easily - 
obtains... spiritual light, peace and quietness of conscience, 
and a firm confidence in God in sincere love 3 . ” 

Let us then contemplate in the Gospel the example of 
Jesus : it is the norm of all human sanctity. If we remain 
J esus by faith in His doctrine, by the imitation 
“/V s especially His religious virtues, we shall surelv 

attain to God. It is true that there is an infinite distance 


between God and us ; God is the Creator, and we are crea- 
tures, the last rung on the ladder of intellectual creation ; 
God is spirit, we are spirit and matter ; God is unchanging 
we are ever subject to change ; but with Christ we can bridle 
this distance and establish ourselves in the immutable 

andTdi’ssoJhl 115 ’ G ° d r n ru h - e creature meet in an ineffable 
and indissoluble union. In Christ we find God. “ Unless vou 

Lies^e' y ‘‘ U t r o1m eS ’-V ayS again the venerable Abbot of 
rw'tr l rm . Up . 0n your soul the loveable image of 
Chnsts Humanity, it is in vain that you aspire to the 
eminent knowiedge and enjoyment of. His Divinity 1 ” 

tied ta God^ th \ L ° rd in th « »f lovo. be 

DirinS, Zi.J i wl; “ “ with the form of the 

JJivmity unless it has become the perfect image of Christ, 


i. Joan. xiv.o. — 2 . Ibid, xm, 15. — , 
cn. x, 7. _ 4- Sanctuary of the Faithful Soul 


3. Blosius, The Mirror of the Soul, 


THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST 25 

according to the spirit, according to the soul, and even in 
the flesh 1 . ” 

For it is to the Father that Jesus leads us. Listen to 
what He says on leaving His disciples : " I ascend to My 
Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God 2 ; " 
the Word has come down from Heaven to take upon Himself 
our flesh and to redeem us ; His work accomplished. He 
ascends to Heaven, but He does not ascend alone ; He 
virtually takes with Him all who believe in Him. And why ? 
In order that — in Him again — the union of all with the 
Father should be accomplished: Ego in eis et tu in Me 3 . 
Is not this Jesus’ supreme prayer to His Father ? " That 

I may be in them, O Father, — by My grace — as Thou in 
Me, that they may contemplate, in the Divinity, the glory 
which Thou hast given Me 1 . " 

Never let us wander from this way, for that would be to 
run the risk of losing ourselves ; to follow it, is to journey 
infallibly to the light of eternal life. When we take as our 
Guide the One Who is the true Light of the World, Lux 
veta quae illuminat omnem hominem 5 , we walk with sure 
and certain steps, and cannot fail to reach the sublime goal 
of our vocation : Father grant they may be with Me, even 
to the sharing of My glory : Ut ubi sum ego et illi sint 
mecum a l 


It is not enough to know the way, we must also be able to 
follow it. It is likewise to Christ Jesus that we owe this 
power. 

St. Paul 7 declares that the riches brought to us through 
the mediation of Christ, our Redeemer, are inexhaustible ; 
under the Apostle’s pen, terms abound which express the 
manifold aspects of this mediation, and give us a glimpse 
of its inestimable treasures. The Apostle above all reminds 
us that Christ redeems us, reconciles us with the Father, 
and creates anew within us the power of bearing fruits 
of justice. 

We were the slaves of the devil — Christ delivers us from 
this bondage ; we were the enemies of God — Jesus reconciles 
us with the Father; we had lost our inheritance — the 
Only-begotten Son restores.to us this inheritance. Let us for a 
few moments contemplate these aspects of Jesus’ work of 

1. A Book of Spiritual Instruction, ch. xix, z. — 2. Joan, xx, 17. — 3. 
Ibid, xvii, 23. — 4. Cf. Ibid. 24. — 5. Ibid. 1, 9. — 6. Ibid, xvn, 24. — 
7. Eph. in, 8 . 


26 



CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


mediation. These truths are doubtless known to us, but 
is it not always a joy for our souls to return to them ? 


When " the fulness of time ” fixed by the eternal decrees 
had come, says St. Paul, “ God sent His Son, made of a 
woman, that He might redeem them who were under the 
law 1 . " It was then that “ the grace of God our Saviour hath 
appeared to all men... that He might redeem us from all 
iniquity 2 . ” 

Such is the essential mission of the Word Incarnate, 
signified by His very name : " Thou shalt call His name 
Jesus, " says the Holy Gospel — Jesus, that is to say Saviour 
— “ for He shall save His people from their sins s . " There- 
fore, adds St. Peter, “ There is no other name under heaven 1 
given to men, whereby we must be saved 4 ; ” this name is 
unique as the Redemption wrought by it is universal: 

And from what does Christ deliver us ? From the yoke 
of sin. What did Jesus say at the time of His Passion when 
about to consummate His Sacrifice ? Nunc princeps hujus 
mundi ejicietur foras. _ " Now shall the prince of this world 
be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will 
draw all things to Myself 5 . ” 

It was indeed by His immolation upon Mount Calvary 
that our King destroyed Satan’s reign. St Paul tells us 
that Christ, snatching from the devil’s hands the sentence 
of our eternal bondage, destroyed it “ fastening it to the 
cross : Delens quod adversum nos erat chirographum dccreti... 
affigens illud cruet 6 . His death is the ransom of our deliver- 
ance. What is the song that resounds in the holy splendour 
oJ heaven irom the innumerable choir of the redeemed? 
h,? Ti - ° Lor ?’ beail honour, praise and glory for it is 
by Thy unmaculate Blood, 0 Divine Lamb, that we have 
become Thy Kingdom 7 ! 


f a° m etern , al damnation in order to bring 
„ ,, r 1 ather and reconcile us with Him He is “ the 

ne Mediator between God and men ” : Units mediator Dei 
el homtnum. homo Christus Jesus* mediator Dei 

»| S th”GoSd G lL“ m S'S7‘, n5 al1 t , he 

S r;2 

miy _ b ' ° nited to Hi "“ S h g 


THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST 


27 

Father. ” The absolute character of this prayer shows the 
oneness of the Divine Nature in which Jesus, as the Word, 
lives with the Father and their common Spirit. 

He is also Man : the human nature bestows on Jesus the 
power of offering to the Father all the satisfaction that love 
and justice demand : Holocauiomata... non tibi placuerunt, 
corpus autem aptasti mihi t ecce venio ut jacia}}i ) Deus , volun- 
tatem tuam \ The sacrifice of this Divine Victim appeases 
God, and makes Him propitious to us : Pacificans per san- 
guinem crticis ejus 2 . As Mediator, Christ Jesus is Pontiff ; 
as Man-God, He forms the bridge over the gulf made by sin 
between heaven and earth. He binds us to God through 
His Manhood wherein “ dwelleth all the fulness of the God- 
head corporeally 3 . ’’ 

St. Paul also tells us that “God indeed was in Christ, 
reconciling the world to Himself ” : Deus erat in Christo 
tmtndum reconcilians sibi 4 , so that we “ who some time were 
afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ ’’ : Vos qui 
altquando eratis longe, facti eslis prope in sanguine Christ! *. 
At the foot of the Cross, justice appeased and peace restored 
give each other the kiss of reconciliation : Justilia el pax 
osculalae sunt*. 

Rightly does the Apostle conclude by saying : In quo 
[ Christo J habemus fiduciam et accessum in confidentia per 
fidem ejus 7 . Through faith in Christ we may indeed have 
the boldness to draw near to God with confidence. How 
can we lack confidence when Christ, the Son of the Father, 
having become our Surety and the Propitiation for our 
iniquities, has expiated and paid off all ? Why should we not 
draw near to this High Priest, Who, like unto us in all things, 
sin excepted, chose to experience all our infirmities, to drink 
of the chalice of all our sufferings, to find, in the experience 
of sorrow, the power of compassionating our miseries more 
deeply ? . 

So powerful indeed is this High Priest, so effectual is His 

i. Hcbr. x f 5 -7. — 2. Col. i, 20. — 3. Ibid. 11, 9. Let us quote this beautiful 
text of the great Pope S l Gregory, the biographer of S* Benedict, where we 
find something more than a simple reminiscence of the Prologue of the Rule: 
Rcdtre ad Dcum. “ Dei Filius adjuvit hominem factus homo ut quia puro 
hotnini via redeundi non paiebal ad Deum, via redeundi fieret per Hominem - 
Dcum. Longe quippe distabamits a jtisio et immortali , nos mortales et injusti. 
Sed inter immortalem et justum, et nos mortales et in just os, apparuit mediator 
Dei et hominum, motialis et jiistus, qui et mortem haberet cum hominibtis , et 
justitiam cum Deo, ut quia per ima nostra longe distabamits a summis, in seipso 
uno jungeret ima cum summis, atque ex eo nobis via redeundi fieret ad Deum, quo 
summis suis ima nostra copularet.. ** S. Gregor. M or alia in Job. Lib. xxn, in 

3 i* P. L. 76, col. 327-328. — 4. II Cor. v, 19. — 5* Epb. 11, 13. — 6. Ps. 
^xxiv, II. — 7. Eph. Ill, 12. 




2 8 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

mediation that the reconciliation is perfect. From the moment 
when Jesus paid the price of our salvation with His Blood 
we entered into the rights of the heavenly inheritance. 
When about to accomplish His essential work of mediation, 
our Lord reveals the inmost sentiments of His Sacred Heart 
in the prayer He addresses to His Father. He prays that 
He may be with Him :■ Ut illi sint mecum. And where does 
He desire this union should be realised. In the glory full 
of delights which, from all eternity, is His own : " That 
they may see My glory which Thou hast given me... before 
the creation of the world ” : Ut videant clariiatem quarn de- 
disti mihi... ante conslitutionem niundi 1 . 

Tertullian says 2 somewhere in his writings : Tam Pater 
nemo [quam Deus ] : " No one is a father like God is. " We 
might say too : Nemo tarn frater quam Christus : " No one 
is a brother like Christ is. ” St. Paul calls Christ " the 
Firstborn amongst many brethren ’’ : Primogenitus in multis 
frafribus 3 ; but, he adds, Christ is not ashamed to call us 
brethren : Non confunditur jralrcs eos vocare *. Indeed what 


does Jesus Himself say to Magdalen when already in the 
glory of His Resurrection ? “ Go to My brethren ” : Vade ad 
fratres meos *. And how great is. His “ fraternity ! " God 
? s _ .I s ' Only-begotten Son takes upon Himself our 
infirmities, He makes Himself responsible for our sins in 
order to be like unto us. Because, says St. Paul we are 
formed °f flesh and blood, Christ has willed to fake upon 
Himself our nature, sinful in us, that by His death, “ He might 
i“^ oy ., h ™ wh ° had the empire of death, that is to say, 

KWdom ’nf r an f re ?i 0r ® t0 T? us * he possession of the eternal 
Hmgdom of Life with the Father. 

« C nf Cl fE deS n by bi , dding us who are caJ led to be 

partakers^ of the heavenly vocation” to "consider the 
Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Tesus " Who 
i U u le f the comma nd of Him by Whom He was 
bone S rr ? ead ? f His Kingdom. This 7 Kingdom This 
b ° use °L G ° d ’ con J tmues St. Paul, “ are we, if we hold fast 
confidence and glory of hope unto the end 7 ” 

, wbat a § lor y for us is this hope we have in Tesus 


1-2 and 6 . 3 Joan - xx - I7 - — 6- Hebr. ii, i 4 - I5 , _ j,. Ibid ; 



THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST 


29 

this glorious inheritance in a wonderful manner. But the 
Man-God only enters into Heaven as our Forerunner: Prae- 
cursor pro nobis intr.oivit 1 . And there, for the soul of each 
one of us, He offers to the Father the infinite price of His 
Passion in a perpetually living mediation : Semper vivens ad 
interpellandum pro nobis 3 . 

So our confidence ought to be boundless. All the graces 
that adorn the soul and make it blossom forth in virtues 
from the time of fits call to the Christian faith until its 
vocation to the religious life, all the streams of living water 
that gladden the city of God which is the religious soul, have 
their inexhaustible source on Calvary: for this river <- c life 
gushed forth from the Heart and Wounds of Jesus. 

• Can we contemplate the magnificent work of our powerful 
High Priest without exulting in continual thanksgiving : 
Dilexit me et tradidit semetipsum pro me 3 : "Who loved 
me, ” says St. Paul, " and delivered Himself for me. ” The 
Apostle does not kay, although it be the very truth : 
dilexit nos: " He loved us ; ” but " He loved me, " that is 
to say His love is distributed to all, while being appropriated 
to each one of us. The life, the humiliations, the sufferings, 
the Passion of Jesus — all concern we. And how has He 
loved me ? To love’s last extremity : in finem dilexit a . O 
most gentle High Priest, Who by Thy Blood hast re-opened 
to. me the doors of the Holy of Holies, Who ceaselessly dost 
intercede for me, to Thee be all praise and glory for ever- 
more ! 

Secondly, Christ’s merits are so much our own that we 
may justly appropriate them to ourselves ; the satisfactions 
of Jesus compose an infinitely precious treasure whence 
we can continually draw in order to expiate our faults, repair 
our negligences, provide for our needs, , perfect our deeds, 
supply for our shortcomings. " The servant of God, "says 
the Venerable Blosius, “ should form the holy custom of 
offering all his works by a pure intention for the honour of 
God. He should be careful to join and unite all he does and 
all he suffers to the actions and sufferings of Christ, through 
prayer and desire. In this way, the works and trials that 
are in themselves, and when looked at as belonging to the 
servant of God himself, vile, worthless and imperfect, will 
become noble, of the highest value, and most pleasing to 
God. They receive an unspeakable dignity from the merits 
of Christ, to which they are united, as a drop of water poured 
into a vessel full of wine is entirely absorbed by the wine, 

i. Hebr. vi, 20. — 2. Ibid, vn, 25. — 3. Gal. n, 20. — 4 . Joan, xin, 1. 



30 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

and receives the full flavour and colour of the wine. 
The good works of those who piously practise this union 
with Christ’s actions incomparably excel the good works of 
those who neglect it 1 . ” 

Therefore this great monk, so versed in spiritual ways, 
does not hesitate to exhort his disciples to unite all their 
actions to those of Jesus : it is the surest way of attaining 
perfection. " Confide your good works and exercises to the 
most holy and sweetest Heart of Jesus that He may correct 
and perfect them : this is the most ardent wish of His loving 
Heart ever ready to complete our defective' works in the 
most excellent manner. Rejoice and exult with gladness in 
that, poor as you are in yourself, you possess such riches in 
your Redeemer Whose will it is to make you a partaker 
in His merits... In Him is laid up for you an immense trea- 
sure provided you have true humility and goodwill 2 

This is what our Lord Himself said to a Benedictine nun. 
Mother Deleloe, whose wonderful inner life has but recently 
been revealed : " What more can you desire than to have 
within you the true source of all good, My Divine Heart ?... 
All these great things are yours, all these treasures and riches 
are for the heart that I have chosen... Draw as much as you 
desire of these infinite delights and riches 3 . " 


q Xt di i n , 0 t f uffi “ for our Heavenly Father to give us His 
Son as Mediator ; He has appointed Him the universal distri- 
butor of every gift ; “ the Father loveth the Son : and He 
hath given all things into His hand ” : Pater diligit Filium 

he emce tl £ u T e/M - S A Christ, communicates to us 
tne grace that He has merited for us. 

thf^athS 0 " w at 0Ur Lord J S the onl y wa y that leads to 
wL 1 ■/ A 0 man cometh t0 the Father, but by me ” : 

usby ffis Blood D?? th™ that He has adeemed 

PUTOSK f ? rget .”~ at least to all practical 
Christ is the Cam* , £ rUth ° f 03,1)1 tal importance : it is that 
by His Spirit * gra “ and that He acts in us 

grac^Ve^lhaf H Se M- n H i mSeIf the P^nitude of every 
g ce. Hear what He Himself says : “ As the Father hath 


B tf rt w n i d A - Wilberforce of \he Orfer of Pro d , from r j he Latin b y the late 
Should be read. — 2 . The Mirror o/ j P f 16rs ’ Ch ' Ix - A » this chapter 
DeMol, Collection “ vix. " Se all urfher ™ VI1 ' 3- La Mire Jeanne 
iorth^y St Mechtilde. — 4. Joan^in^ ftidf x^ S g. me d ° Ctri “ e S8t 


THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST 


3t 

life in Himself, so He hath given to the Son also to have life 
in Himself ” : Sicut Pater habet vitam in semetipso, sic dedit 
et Filio habere vitam in semetipso 1 . And what is this life ? 
It is an eternal life, an ocean pf divine life containing all the 
perfections and beatitude of the Godhead. Now Christ Jesus 
has this Divine Life " in Himself ” in semetipso, that is to 
say by nature, being fully entitled to it, for Christ is the 
Incarnate Son of God. When the Father beholds His 
Christ, He is ravished, for this Infinite God beholds His 
equal in Christ His Son, and He declares : " This is my 
beloved Son " Hie est Filins mens dilectus 2 . He sees nothing 
in His Son except what comes from Himself : “ Thou art My 
Son, this day have I begotten Thee ” : Filins mens es tu, ego 
hodie genni te s . Christ is truly " the brightness of His glory, 
and the figure of His substance 4 ; and it gives the Father 
infinite joy to behold Hun : In quo mihi bene complacui 5 . 
Thus Christ, because He is the Son of God, is " Life ’’ 
supereminently : “ I am the Life ", Ego sum vilo. °. 

This Divine Life that Jesus possesses personally and in its 
plenitude, He wills to communicate and lavish upon us : 
“ I am come that they may have life, and may have it more 
abundantly ” : Ego vent ut vitam habeant et abundantins 
habeant 7 ; He wills that the life which is His through the 
hypostatic union, should be ours by grace, and it is " of 
His fulness we all have received ” : Vidimus [ eum ] plenum 
gratiae et de plenitndine ejus nos omnes accepimtis 8 . Through 
Uie Sacraments, through the action ol His Spirit in us, He 
infuses grace into us as the principle of our life. 

Bear this truth well in mind : there is no grace of which 
a soul can have need that is not found in Jesus, the Fount 
of every grace. For if “ without [Him] we can do nothing 8 ’’ 
that brings us nearer to Heaven and to the Father, in Him 
are laid up " all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge ’’ : 
In quo sunt omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae absconditi 10 . 
And they are there laid up that they may be transmitted 
to us. If we can sing that only Jesus Christ is holy : Tu 
solus sanclus 11 , it is because no one is holy except by Him 
and in Him. 

There is perhaps no truth upon which St. Paul, the flerald 
of the mystery of Christ, more insists when commenting 
upon the Divine Plan. Christ is the second Adam and, like 
Adam, is the head of a race, but this is the race of the elect. 

i. Joan, v, 26. — 2. Matth. in, 17 ; xvii, 5. — 3. Ps. 11, 7. — 4. Hebr. 1, 3. 
•— 5. Matth. xvii, 5. cf. Ibid. 111, 17. — 6. Joan, xiv, 6. — 7. Ibid, x, 10. — 
8. Ibid 1, 14 and 16. — 9. Ibid, xv, 5. — 10. Col. 11, 3. — n. Gloria of the Mass. 



32 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

" By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death ; 
and so death passed upon all men... if by one man’s offence 
death reigned through one; much more they who receive 
abundance of grace, and of the gift and of justice shall 
reign in life through one, Jesus Christ 1 "... With this 
difference, however, that “ where sin abounded grace did 
more abound 2 . ” 

Christ has been established by His Father the Head of 
the race of the redeemed, of the faithful, with whom He 
forms one body. His infinite grace is to flow into, the mem- 
bers of the mystical organism, “ according to the measure 
of the giving of Christ ’’ : Unicuique nostrum data est gratia 
secundum mmsuram donatlonis Christi 3 . And, by this grace 
which flows from Himself, Christ renders each of the elect 
like unto Himself, and pleasing, as He is, to the Father. 
Tor in ths eternal decrees the Father does not separate us 
from Christ Jesus : the act by which He predestined a human 
nature to be personally united to His word is the same act 
by which He predestined us to become the brethren of Jesus 
We cannot work out our salvation without Christ without 
the help of the grace that He gives to us. He is the one 
the true Life that saves from death : Ego sum vita \ 

4 IV. »■ ' 

These essential truths apply to salvation ; they are equally 
o be understood of perfection. You are perhaps surprised ' 
that I have spoken at such length of Christ Jesus before 

t0 /° u of r f h & 10us Perfection. It is because Christ 
is the foundation of monastic perfection that He is “ the 
.Religious pre-eminently, the Example of the perfect reli- 
fi°] 1 S A more 411311 th;lt - He is the very source of perfection 

fimth?r e offd“ ° f aU h ° lineSS ’ “ the a ^ thor 

bordered? J?®* “ - a - n 1113414,141011 created on the 

SPg 

25K ~ 

SrfTh eMort ShWn ■ lhrongh *° v £ *» ” h « 
should be His worthy childreJ? wI’ k 1S esseotlalI y that we 

be made conformable to the imag^ o^His'lo' T*fpraedL°- 

Ibid -=°--3.Epb. I v, 7 . - 4. Joan, x^v, G. 5, 


THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST 33 

tinavit (nos) con formes fieri imaginis Filii su! 1 . All that 
God enjoins upon us and asks of us, all that Christ 
counsels us, has no other end than to give us the opportunity 
of showing that we are God’s children and the brethren of 
Jesus.; and when we attain this ideal in everything, not 
only in our thoughts and actions, but even in the motives 
from which we act, then we reach perfection. 

Perfection can indeed be resumed in this inward disposition 
of . the soul seeking to please the Heavenly Father by 
living habitually and totally in the spirit of its supernatural 
adoption. 

Perfection has love for its habitual motive ; it embraces 
the entire life, that is to say it makes one think will, love, 
hate, act, — not only according to the views of nature 
vitiated by original sin, nor yet merely according to nature 
in so far as it is upright and moral (although this is certainly > 
always requisite,) but in the spirit of this divine 
" superaddition ’’ infused by God : to wit, grace which makes 
us His children and friends. ' * 

He alone is perfect who lives habitually and totally 
according to grace ; it is a failing, an imperfection, for a man 
adopted as a child of God to withdraw any one of his acts 
from the. influence of grace and from charity which 
accompanies grace. Jesus has given us the watchword of 
Christian perfection: “ I must be about My Father’s business ’’: 

In his quae Patris mei sunt oportet me esse 2 . 

The result of this disposition is to render all the actions 
of a soul, thus fully living according to the meaning of its 
supernatural adoption, pleasing to God, because they are all 
rooted in charity. 

n Let us listen to St. Paul : " Walk worthy of God ,” he writes, 

" in all things pleasing ” : Ut ambuletis digne Deo -per omnia 
placentes 3 . The Apostle tells us we are to do this by walking 
worthy of the vocation in which we are called. Ut digne 
ambuletis vocatione qua vocati eslis*. And this vocation is 
to the supernatural life and the glorious beatitude that 
crowns it : Ut umbularetis digne Deo qui vocavit vos in suum 
regnum et gloriam 5 . 

So then, to please our Heavenly Father, in order that He 
be glorified, that His Kingdom be established within us and 
His will be done by us totally and steadfastly — that is 
perfection : " Stand perfect, and full in all the will of God ” : 

Ut stetis perfecti et pleni in omni voluntate Dei 6 . 

r L: Rom . viii, 29. — 2. Luc. 11, 49. — 3. Col. 1,. 10. — 4. Eph. iv, 1. — 5. 

I fhess. n, 12. — 6. Col. iv, 12. 



34 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

This attitude towards God avails to make us 
" fruitful in every good work ” : Per omnia placentes, in omni 
bono opere fructificantes 1 . And does not Our Lord Himself 
declare that this perfection is glorious to God ? "In this 
is My Father glorified : that you bear very much fruit " : 
In hoc clarificahis est Paler mens ut frustum plurimum affera- 
lis 2 . 

Whence are we to draw the sap which is to make all our 
actions fruitful in order that we may bring to the Father 
this abundant harvest of good works whereby we shall glorify 
Him ? 3 

This fruitful sap which is grace comes to us through Jesus 
only. It is only by remaining united to Him that we can 
be divinely fruitful : " He that abideth in Me, and I in 
Him,, the same beareth much fruit ’’ : Qui manet in Me et 
Ego in eo hic fert fructum multum 3 . If without Him we 
can do nothing that is worthy of His Father, with Him in 
Him, we bear much fruit : He is the Vine, we are the 
branches 1 . 

You will perhaps ask how we are to “ abide ” in Jesus ? 

’• u alL St Paul teUs us *at it is by our 
faith Christ dwells in our hearts : Christum per fidem inhabi- 

£ c ° rdlh t us . Next by love : “ Abide in My 

e . Mancie tn dilcchone mea e , the love that, ioined to 
grace, gives us up entirely to Christ's service and the keeping 
His commandments : " If you love Me keep Mv 
commandments " : Si diligitis Me, mandata mea serial' * 


doctrine is true of the perfection in which every 

sr s 

» aasssssi* 1 - soui ,owatds G ° d “ d ^ ^ 


?h a r y .S adeS lo Perfection in ourselves and all 

eves and thp t nriH^ lP frf 0nC r P - 1SCence of the flesh - and of the 
heart and Vn fe ? ollclts and divides the poorhuman 

T^reUgfonHuS ^ lnte ^ty necessary to P perfectTon 

his progress by enteringinto^he'wa'y ^ °- bstacle f. ^ 
counsels : by the vows h» J y . the evangehcal 

state of perfection which shield^ huT ?f e i f ^revocably in a 
the fluctuations and solicitation^^’ ■ ^ he . Is . faithful - from 
divide his heart ; in this state f isturb and 

r M t in ; ms state ' grace of adoption has 


J-: rv.yr* XV, 5. . 


THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST 


35 

more freedom and is able to bear more fruit. *' I would, ” 
says St. Paul,," have you to be without solicitude. He that 
is without a wife is solicitous for the things that belong to 
the Lord : how he may please God. But he that is with 
a wife is solicitous for the things of the world : how he 
may please his wife. And he is divided... And this I speak 
for your profit... which may give you power to attend upon 
the Lord, without impediment " : Volo vos sine sollicitudine 
esse... quod facultatem praebeat sine impedimenta Dominutn 
obsecrandi 1 . 

This is why Christ Jesus said to the young man enamoured 
of the ideal : " If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou 
hast and give to the poor and thou slialt have treasure in 
heaven. And come follow me ” : Si vis perjecius esse, vende 
omnia quae habes, et veni, sequere me' 1 -. 

The religious, the monk, despoils himself, detaches himself 
from everything : Reliquimus omnia 3 ; he puts away all the 
obstacles that could retard his progress and shackle bis 
flight towards God. In him, faith, whereby Christ dwells in 
souls, is more ardent, love, whereby they dwell in Christ, 
is more generous and far-reaching. In this blessed state, the 
soul can more fully cleave to God, because it follows Christ 
more closely : Et secuti sumus te\ 

Perfection has then grace for principle, love for its 
mainspring, and the degree of union with Jesus for its 
measure. Of this perfection Jesus is the initiator by the 
supernatural vocation ; secondly, He is its one model, at 
once divine and accessible '; finally and above all, it is He 
Who gives it to us as a participation in His own perfection. 
We must be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect 6 ; 
this is what Christ tells us, but it is God alone Who can 
make us perfect and He does so by giving us His Son. 

Therefore all is summed up in constant union with Jesus, 
in ceaselessly contemplating Him in order to imitate Him, 
and in doing, at all times, for love, as He did : quia diligo 
Patrem 6 — the things that please the Father : — Quae 
placita sunt eifacio semper '. This is the secret of perfection. 

It is related in the life of St. Mechtilde, that one Saturday, 
during the singing of the Mass Salve sancte parens, she 
saluted the Blessed Virgin and besought her to obtain for 
her true holiness. The glorious Virgin replied : " If thou 
desirest true holiness, keep close to my Son ; He is Holiness 
itself, sanctifying all things. ” While St. Mechtilde was 

i. I Cor. VII, 32, 35. — 2. Matth. xix, 21. — 3. Ibid. 27. — 4. Ibid. — 3, 
Ibid, v, 48. — 6. Joan, xiv, 30. — 7 . Ibid, vm, 29. 



36 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

asking herself how she could do this, the sweet Virgin said 
to her again : " Unite thyself to His most holy Childhood, 
beseeching Him that by His innocence, the faults and 
negligences of thy childhood may be repaired. Unite thyself 
to His most fervent Boyhood ever unfolding in ■ a more 
burning love which alone had the privilege of giving sufficient 
matter to the love of God. Unite thyself to His Divine 
virtues, which have power to ennoble and elevate thine. 
Secondly, keep close to My Son by directing all thy thoughts, 
words, and actions towards Him in order that He may 
blot out ad that is imperfect therein. Thirdly, keep close 
to my Son as the bride keeps close to the bridegroom who, 
out of his possessions, furnishes her with food and clothing, 
while she cherishes and honours, for love of him, the friends 
and family of her bridegroom. Thus, thy soul will be sus- 
tained by the Word of God as with the best sustinence, and 
clad and adorned with the delights she takes in Him, that 
is to say with the example that He gives her to imitate... 
Thus thou wilt be truly holy, according as it is written, 
with the holy thou shalt be holy, in the same way as a 
queen becomes queen in sharing the lot of the king 1 . ’’ 

" Therefore, beloved brethren, ” concluded the Saint on 
another occasion when the same doctrine was revealed to 
ber > receiving with deep gratitude this high favour from 
the divine Clemency, let us take possession of Christ’s most 
holy hfe that we may supply- for all that is lacking to our 
merits. Let us also strive, as far as we are able, to be 
conformed to Him by our virtues for this will be our supreme 
g ory m eternal beatitude. What glory indeed could be 
greater than, by a certain resemblance, to approach Him 
Who is the splendour of everlasting light 2 ? " 

V. 


of fir*!? li iT ed ,° I ? U i es u fruitful truths ;from these springs 
enSSL\ Slake th ! thirst of his great soul ; in this 

T h f e W1SheS , f ee the Iives of his disciples 
transfigured. Let us go back to the beginning of his 

SPSPaSr that a P° Stulant presets Cfmself in 

St Benedict mnl £ £ m ° nk and asks what he must do. 

cLir “ To l f e must return t0 God b y following 

const. To thee, therefore, my words are now addressed 


1 B ° ok °l Special Grace, 3 m part’ ° Ua ' n true haliness -~ 

kmud/ all the Life of Jesus Christ Cl’ ntr, otl a , man can to 

15 1 16; 4«ta Part. ch. , 2 , How Jesus Chfit? SLr 31 *! ch ' 34, 3 ri1 Part. cli. 

, now jesus Christ supplies lor what is lacking to us- 


THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST 


37 

who... desirest to fight for the Lord Christ, our true King ” : 
Ad te ergo nunc mens sermo dirigitur quisquis... Domino 
Christo veto Regi militaturus. It is not a mere formula 
with St. Benedict ; this idea impregnates the entire Rule and 
gives it that eminently Christian character, so much admired 
by Bossuet x . The holy Legislator points out by these opening 
words of his Rule that he intends to take Christ fundamentally 
as Example and to consider Him as the source of perfection. 
His Rule is " Christocentric ". So he tells us again and again 
" to prefer nothing to the love of Christ 2 , ’’ " to hold nothing 
dearer than Christ 3 ; ” and, in ending his Rule, he condenses 
all the ascetic programme of the monk in a sentence of 
absolute devotion to Christ : " Let nothing whatever be 
preferred to Christ, Who deigns to bring us all alike to 
everlasting life " : Christo omnino nihil praeponant qui nos 
pariter ad vitam aeternam perducat . 4 

These are the great Patriarch’s last words, as it were the 
supreme farewell that he bids his sons upon leaving them ; 
these words echo those that open the Rule. Christ is the 
Alpha and Omega of all perfection. 

In the chapter that serves as the epilogue and crown of 
the monastic code, S^enedict repeats this truth that we shall 
find the way to our eternal country in Christ, and that it is 
by His grace alone we can fulfil the Rule traced out, and thus 
attain the end proposed' at the head of the first page : “ to 
seek God " : Quisquis ergo ad patriam caelcstem festinas, 
hanc Regulam descriptam adjuvants Christo perfice i . 

So throughout our life, whatever be the state of our soul 
and the circumstances that may arise, we ought never to 
turn our gaze away from Christ. St. Benedict constantly 
places the Divine Model before our eyes. If he tells us we 
ought to deny ourselves, it is that we may follow Christ: 
Abnegate semetipsum slid til sequatur Christum e . All our 
obedience — and what is the whole of our life but a continual 
obedience ? — is to be inspired by the love of Christ : 

Haec convenit his qui nihil sibi a Christo cariu-s aliquid existi- 
ma.nl 7 . Are we a butt to temptation ? We must have 
recourse to Christ, it is against Him as against a rock that we 
must dash our evil thoughts the instant they come into the 
heart : Cogitationes malas cordi suo advenientes mox ad Chris- 
tum allidere 8 . Our tribulations, our adversities, must be 
united to Christ’s sufferings : Passionibus Christt per paticn- 
tiam participemur °. The whole existence of a monk is to 

i. Panegyric of S* Benedict . — 2. Rule, ch, tv. — 3. Ibid. ch. v. 4. Ibid, 
ch. I. xxii. — 5. ibid. ch. lx.xiii. — 0. Ibid. ch. iv ; cf. Matin, xvi, 24. 7. 

Rule, ch. v. — 8. Ibid. cli. iv. — 9. Prologue to the Rule. 




38 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

consist in walking in the path traced out by the Divine Master 
in the Gospel : Per ducatum Evangelii pergamus itinera ejtts L 
Finally, if we come to a state of perfect charity, which is the 
bond of perfection, it is the love of Christ that has brought 
us thither and because He is the mainspring of all our actions: 
Ad caritatem Dei pervcniet illam quae perfecta... universa 
custodit... amore Christi 2 . 

You see how for St. Benedict Christ must be everything 
to the monk. In all things he would have the monk think 
of Christ, lean upon Him ; the monk is to see Christ in 
everyone, in the Abbot 3 , in his brethren 4 , in the sick 5 , in 
the guests 6 , in strangers 7 , in the poor 8 , and, if need be, he 
is to pray for his enemies in Christi amorc The love of 
Christ brought the postulant to the monastery, it is the love 
of Christ that keeps him there and transforms him into the 
likeness of his Elder Brother. 

We understand why it was that St. Benedict told a hermit 
who had bound himself by chains in his cave : " If thou art 
the servant of God, do not bind thyself by an iron chain 
but by the chain of Christ ” : Non teneat te catena jerri, sed 
catena Christi 1 °, that is to say by the love that binds thee to 
Christ. 


May it be the same for us ; may the love of Christ hold 
us united to Him : Teneat te catena Christi ! There is no other 
way so traditional for us. Read the most authentic and 
most magmficent.monuments of Benedictine asceticism, and 
you will see they are overflowing with this teaching. It 
jt S the ardent aspirations of St. Anselm towards the 
Word Incarnate, the tenderness of St. Bernard’s love for 

H' ^/ St Tu h i? g familiarities of St. Gertrude and 
St. Mech tilde with the Divine Saviour, the burning out- 


change essentially the " Dhvsio"nnmv " »V* eS , e tw .° wol ; ds have sufficed to . 
to open out a special Dersnpi'Hve^nU ?' 1 ' 1 * ’? Scaring of the quotation, and 
thought of the great Patriarch Tn rofi m0Wn , to ,~ ( ^ a ? slan . bat revealing tile 
remarked with^iustice that " in th,.ti erenCe t t0 p? 55lan >, has moreover been 
to Cassian in lilt Tonaras the observ^L? 10 "n that ? E . cnedict is indebted 
life, he differs from him in his teaching and or S aa Jsation of the claustral 
does not then consist only in the manner?,, ,h“ s i 3c . e - s ‘ Benedict's originality 
the East to Western TOnditions hnt a i\ h - C 11 li, be ® da P ts the asceticism of 
repudiates rationalisdc tendencies ? i™ thac,ea mess with which he 

supernatural: hence res$T • the » a ‘u™l “> tl.e 
subordination of the letter to the snirit i I ascet,asm . the indubitablo 
intention." D. M. FestugHre in Ck^°n^,^ tter of the a <=t to the 
Rule, ch. n and lxui. — 4, Ibid ch ,, r 9 Ia . P- +91. — 3 - 

UU. - 7 . and 8. Ibid. - <j. Ibid. ch. v - 5 ,'o s Tu 6 ’ Ibid - ch ' 

IV. JO. s. Greg. Dtal. lib. ur, c. xvi. 


THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST 


39 

pourings of Ven. Blosius to the Sacred Humanity of Jesus K 
These great souls so pure and high in holiness, had fullymade 
proof of this line of conduct proposed by the great Patriarch 
whose faithful disciples they were : Nihil amori Christi prae- 
ponere: "To put the love of Christ before all things 2 . " 
This way of making everything converge to Christ Jesus, 
which is so characteristic of St. Benedict, is extremely advan- 
tageous for the soul. It makes the life of the soul powerful, 
for it concentrates it in unity ; and in the spiritual life, as 
in everything, sterility is the daughter of dispersion. It 
renders it attractive, for nothing can more delight the mind 
and more easily obtain the necessary efforts from the heart 
than to view the Adorable Person of Christ Jesus. “ It 
requires very little experience of life to know how necessary 
it is for every one to have ever ready some sort of idea or 
word or thought — which by practice comes instinctively 
to our aid in times of difficulty or mental stress and gives 
us courage and strength to walk in the right path. This — 
a veritable talisman to the soul if we will only let it be so 
— js to be found in the sacred Name of our Blessed Lord. 
His should be an ever abiding presence to us, not a theo- 
retical and abstract personality but a living actuality ever 
with us, 'Christ in the mind, Christ in the heart, Christ in 
the hands’ — the abiding thought of Christ, the abiding love 
of Christ, the constant and conscious following of Christ — 
this secures the union of our souls with God and makes our 
service real and a work of love... Of all the means which 
St. Benedict proposed to his disciples as aids to the spiritual 
life, this constant keeping of our Lord before the mind and 
following His example is perhaps insisted on most frequently 
and clearly 3 . ” 

1. And so many others like S* Odilo, S‘ Hildegarde, S* Elisabeth of Schonau, 
S‘ Frances of Rome, Mother DeleloS, favoured, long before S l Margaret Mary, 
with the revelations of the Sacred Heart, Blessed Bonomo, etc. For the 
period previous to the i3 lh century, see D. Besse : Les Mystiques Binidictins 
(Paris, 1922) ; for the Abbot of Liessies, see the excellent article La place du 
Christ dans la doctrine spirituelle de Louis de Blois, by Dom P. de Puniet, in 
La Vie Spirituelle, August 1920, p. 386 seq. — 2. Rule, ch. iv, v and mcxii. 
— 3 Card. Gasquet, Retigio Rehgiosi. The object and scope oj the Religious 


i 

i 



III. — THE ABBOT, CHRIST’S REPRESENTATIVE. 


Summary. — The monk is to seek God by walking in Christ’s foot- 
steps ; he belongs to the cenobitical society, the authority of 
which is concentrated in the hands of the Abbot. — I. The 
Abbot, the representative of Christ, is to imitate Him as Pastor. 
— II. As Pontiff. — III. He is to be conspicuous for his discre- 
tion. — IV. For his kindness. — V. Attitude of the monk 
towards the Abbot : humble and sincere love. — VI. Docility 
of spirit. — VII. Obedience of action. 


T o seek God by walking in Christ's footsteps : such in a 
few words is the sublime vocation that St. Benedict 
assigns to his sons. When a secular wishes to be 
admitted into the Community, this question is put to him : 
“ What do you ask ? ” and the Church places upon his lips 
this reply exactly appropriate to the situation : ‘‘ The mercy 
of God and your fellowship ”, Misericordiam Dei et veslram 
conjraternUatem 1 . 

Every vocation even the simple Christian vocation, comes 
from God. Our Lord Himself says " No man can come to 
e, except the Father draw him ” : Nemo potest venire ad 
me nisi Pater traxerit eum 2 . 

' ? ut J t is God ’ s |° ve for us — and as we are born miserable, 
it is His merciful love — which is the origin of this call : 
attraxi te miserans . This vocation is great, and this first 
loving glance cast upon us by God is the first link in the chain 
of graces which He bestows upon us throughout the course 
a H the Divine mercies towards us have 
■” , he ‘ r fir ? t PHuorP 1 ? this invitation to share, by adoption 
in the Sonship of Christ Jesus. y F ’ 

monastic vocation itself only aims at perfecting this 
word ” • th counsel . ls given, but " all men take not this 




■ 3. jerem. xxxi, 3. See also 


4 * 


THE ABBOT, CHRIST’S REPRESENTATIVE 

follow Me 1 . ” You know too the refusal that tne Divine 
Master met with. Jesus had at first only pointed out the 
common way : “ If thou wilt enter into life, keep the 
commandments Si vis ad vitam ingredi, serva mandata 
Then after the rejoinder of the young man: ‘‘All these- things 
I have kept from my youth 3 , ’’ Jesus wished to show him a 
higher way, a way which leads to a more intimate degree of 
union, a more perfect ’ beatitude. These successive and 
ascending calls hadlove only for' their source : “ Jesus looking 
on him, loved him ” : Intuitus eum, dilexit eum i . It is the 
love of God which draws us to the cloister, which invites us 
to serve Him in the cenobitical life, “ the fellowship of the 
brethren ” : Et vestram confraternitatem. 

The monastery is the basis of a society. What is a society? 
It is an assembly of men whose wills conspire towards a 
determined end, under a recognised authority. In order 
to form a society it is not enough for men to be materially 
united, for example like a crowd of curious people grouped 
together in a public place : that would be simply an acciden- 
tal conglomeration without consistency ; men must have an 
identical aim to which all tend by common consent : this 
aim gives to the society its direction and specification. But 
as men are unstable, as discussions often arise among them, 
and as individual liberty has to be directed, it is especially 
necessary for the constituting and functioning of a society 
that there should be an authority maintaining the union of 
the members in pursuit of the social ends and keeping them 
united as to the means. 

We at once see the importance of this latter element : 
without one supreme authority recognised as incontestable 
by all, any society, however nobly inspired we might otherwise 
suppose it to be, is fatally condemned to dissensions and 
ruin : “ Every kingdom divided against itself, ” Christ has 
said, “ shall be brought to desolation ” : Regnum in seipsum 
divisum dcsolabitur 5 . St. Benedict remarks this in one of 
t his chapters, and we shall nowhere else see the Lawgiver 
: of monks’ express himself with such warmth : he declares as 

“ absurd 0 ” the existence of an authority that would be, in 
any degree, independent, and consequently a rival of the 
j supreme authority ; he heaps up terms depicting the disastrous 
consequences that would ensue. Dissensions inevitably 
i follow disunion, and from these dissensions “ souls are 
j endangered... and run to destruction”: Necesse est sub 

1. Matth. xix, 21 ; Marc, x, 21 ; Luc. xvm, 22.' — 2. Matth. xix, 17 . — 3 
Ibid. 20. — 4. Marc, x, 21. — 5. Luc. xi, 17 ; cf. Matth. xu, 25 ; Marc. m f 
24. — 6. Rule, ch. lxv. 



42 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

kac dissmsione animus, periclitari... eunt in perditionem 1 . 


I have pointed out the primal object that St. Benedict 
wishes us to pursue, namely, to seek God 2 , to return to 
Him : Ut ad Eum redeas s ; I have shown how the great 
means that he places in our hands is courageously to follow 
Christ the true King; Domino Christo veto Regi militalurus 4 . 
By its end, as well as by the means employed to attain this 
end, the monastery forms a supernatural society. But before 
studying the monastery from the cenobitical point of view, 
it is necessary first of all carefully to analyse the authority 
which is its mainstay : this authority is concentrated in the 
hands of the Abbot. 

There is a striking analogy between the Church and the 
monastery, both envisaged as societies. Christ founded a 
society to continue among men His mission of redemption and 
sanctification. Now what means did He, Infinite Wisdom, 
take in order to constitute His society ? It is remarkable 
that the first time Christ speaks of His Church it is to 
indicate its foundation. Christ, the wise Architect®, first of 
all lays the foundation ; this foundation is Peter. Tu es 
Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meant ®. 
W^konty being once established, the rest is regulated without 
difficulty. 

The great Patriarch, whose Roman genius and Christian 
spirit appear so clearly in the Rule, uses no other logic. 

, ter a preliminary chapter where he sets aside the different 
torins of religious life in order to retain only the cenobitical 
torm, he at once and before all speaks of the Abbot ; Qualis 
debeat esse abbas 7 . And tnis Abbot' he defines from the 


opening of the chapter as the head of the monastery : Abbas 

SE r* g a“ S ^ c M0NASTERl6 ”- St Benedict, in this, 
imitates Our Lord. He first and foremost lays the foundation, 

of & lhe quaIilies “ d 

Patolr U cVfof m \ ay nf a f f r^ r ? S f t0 the ideaI that the ^eat 

Eg * &K3gr 

.. “T" 0 «“• af, “ the ““>*> ° f Chris * 


THE ABBOT, CHRIST’S REPRESENTATIVE 43 

Whom he represents, as Pastor, and as Pontiff ; we shall next 
see how he is to show forth his discretion and thus imitate 
the loving kindness of the supreme Pastor ; from these 
considerations will quite naturally follow the monk's attitude 
towards the Abbot, an attitude which is summed up in 
love, docility of spirit and obedience of action. 

I. 

If we want to understand the ideal that the lawgiver of 
monks forms of the head of the monastery, it is not enough 
to study the two chapters of the Rule treating ex professo 
of the Abbot 1 ; we must know the mind and spirit of the 
great Patriarch, such as they appear' in the Rule taken as a 
whole, and in its thousand details, as well as in St. Benedict’s 
life itself. For our Blessed Father cannot propose to the 
Abbot any other ideal than that which he himself contem- 
plates in prayer, the principles of which he explains in his 
monastic code, and accomplishes in his own government. 

According to his custom, St. Benedict begins by laying 
down a supreme principle whence he deducts all his teaching, 
and that gives unity, cohesion and supernatural fecundity 
to the whole ordering of the society which he intends to found. 

This principle is thus announced: Abbas... Christi agere 
vices in monasterio creditur 2 . " The Abbot is believed to 

hold the place of Christ in the monastery. " In this axiom 
is condensed the whole synthesis of the chapter of the Rule 
concerning the Abbot ; all the remainder is but development 
and application. Thus St. Benedict wishes the Abbot to be 
penetrated with this fundamental thought and to adapt 
himself to it in order to find the norm of his conduct and 
the rule of his life. “ Let the Abbot, since he is considered to 
represent the person of Christ, be called Lord and Father... 
out of reverence and love for Christ. Let him be mindful of 
this and show himself to be worthy of such an honour " : 
Abbas quia vices Christi agere videtur, Domnus et Abbas 
vocetur... honore et amore Christi. Ipse autem cogitet, et sic 
se exhibcat ut digntts sit tali honore 3 . In the mind of 
St. Benedict, the Abbot represents Cnrist in the midst of his 

i. S l Benedict devotes two chapters to the Abbot: in ch. n he describes 
the qualities that the head of the monastery ought to possess ; in the ch. lxiv 
(to be found in that section of the Rule concerning the order to be observed 
in the different elements of the monastic city) he first shows the mode of 
procedure to be followed in the election of the Abbot, and completes the 
advice given in Chapter it. Let us add that, in the course of the Rule, the 
great Patriarch constantly mentions the abbatiai power. — 2 . Rule, ch. n. — 
3. Ibid. ch. lxiii. 


44 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

monks; he ought therefore, in the measure possible to human 
frailty, to reproduce in his life and in his government the 
person and actions of Christ Jesus. 

Now in the Church which is His Kingdom, His " family ” 
(that is the idea of St. Paul) 1 , Christ appears as Pastor, and 
as Pontiff. 

The Apostle tells us that Christ, as Man, did not arrogate 
to Himself the honour of the Priesthood, but that He was 
called to this dignity by the Father 2 . It is the same as 
regards Christ’s office of Pastor. God proclaims by His pro- 
phet Ezechiel that He will set up one Shepherd Who shall 
lead His flock : Suscitabo super eas Paslorem unum qui pascat 
eas... et ipse erit eis in Paslorem 3 . Jesus Himself declares 
that He is this Shepherd. In sublime words addressed to His 
Father at the Last Supper, He confesses that it is from His 
Father that He has received the guardianship of souls : Tui 
erant, et mihi eos dedisti 4 , “Thine they were; and to Me 
Thou gavest them. " 

This twofold office has conferred upon Jesus the fulness of 
all power : Data est mihi omnis potestas ®. He wills to share 
this power with certain men, whom He chooses, according 
to the designs of His eternal providence, to co-operate with 
Him in the charge and sanctification of souls, and to whom 
He distributes the measure of His gifts ; Secundum mensuram 
donations Chnsti «. St. Paul writes that Christ appointed 
some as apostles, others 'as pastors, for the edifying of the 
Mystical Body. 

It is a like mission that the Abbot has to fulfil • it is this 
twofold ideal he must strive to attain. Called to receive a 
participation m the dignity, office and grace of the universal 
Pontiff and supreme Pastor, the Abbot will find his greatness, 
lus perfection and joy in the care wherewith he acquits him- 
self of this supernatural commission. 

thJAbbot'St^iwrf' 1 ^ 4 encompa3ses the appointment of 
Divi d a i ha C ? n S uarantee the authenticity of the 

This elecSn I?* 6 ^ St p a , ce .f? concerns election itself, 
f ins election is to be made in the fear of God 7 •” it is an 

election that must be ratified by the supreme power in the 

f So 7® re i gn Pontiff ' in order that he who is elected 

Se monSrv St the auth °rity of the head of 

as to anti ude fn S r t> B m h ^T e s P eciflcs the conditions 
as to aptitude for the office which the future Abbot mmt 

satisfy, and explains to the electees the qiaWies tha, They 

6 - ~ 5 - Matth - ~ 7 . X Ru.e, 2 c 3 h.T x lv. JOaa - 


THE ABBOT, CHRIST’S REPRESENTATIVE 


45 

must look for in their head ; then he sets before the Abbot- 
elect the principles, he should follow in his government and 
the spirit that should inspire, him in the guidance of souls K 

From St. Benedict’s point of view the Abbot then appears 
first of all as pastor. The ideal corresponding to this word 
is one particularly dear to St. Benedict, familiarised as he 
is with Holy Writ 2 . It is to be remarked how often the 
terms " pastor, ’’ “ flock, ” " sheep ", occur under his pen 
when he wishes to characterise the relations of the Abbot 
with the other members of the monastic society 3 . "Let 
him imitate the loving example of ' the Good Shepherd, f 
Pastoris boni pium imitetur exemplum 4 . It is the shepherd’s 
first duty to feed his flock :.Nonne greges a pastoribus pascun- 
tur B . - And what is the food that he must give them ? God 
answers us by the mouth of the prophet : " They shall feed 
you with knowledge and doctrine ”, Et pascent vos scicntia et 
doctrinal. Christ Jesus Himself declares: "Not in bread 
alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth 
from the mouth of God 7 . ” 

This is why St. Benedict so insistently requires of the Abbot 
the perfection of doctrine and the knowledge of the Divine 
law : Ergo cum aliquis suscipit nomen abbatis, duplici debet 
doctrina suis praeesse discipitlis... oportet ergo eum esse 
doctum in lege divina 8 . 

The great Patriarch does not here mean the theoretic 
knowledge of philosophy and theology. A man may possess 
all the treasures of human knowledge, even in theological 
matters, and yet produce no fruit for souls. Hear how 
St. Paul insists on this subj'ect : " If I speak with the tongues 
of men and .of angels, and have not charity, I am become as 
sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have 
prophecy and should know all mysteries and all knowledge... 
and have not charity, I am nothing " : Si noverim myslcria 
omnia, et omnem scientiam... factus sum velut aes sonans aul 
cymbalum tinniens He speaks elsewhere of those who spend 
their lives in learning' without ever arriving at the profitable 
knowledge of the truth : Semper discenles, et nunquam ad 
scientiam veritatis pervenienles 10 . 

The knowledge of which S l Benedict speaks and that he 
requires of the Abbot is a knowledge of God and holy things, 

i. Rule.ch.Lxiv.: — 2. This image is frequent, especially in theOldTestamcnt, 
Israel having led the pastoral life. — 3. Rule, ch. xxvii and xxvm. — 4. 
Ibid. ch. xxvii. — 5. Ezech. xxxiv, 2. — 6. Jerem. m, 15. — 7. Matth. iv, 
4 . Luc. iv, 4. — 8. Rule, ch. 11 and lxiv. — 9. I Cor. xm, 1-2. — 10. II Tim. 
in, 7. 



a 6 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


obtained from the Scriptures, a knowledge enlightened by the 
rays of the Eternal Word and fructified by the Holy Spirit. 
Tnis Spirit tells us that the wisdom ot the Saints is true 
prudence : Scientia sanctorum prudentia *. It is therefore a 
question here of a knowledge of holiness, gained in prayer, 
assimilated and lived by the one who is to transmit it to 
souls. Such is the " wisdom of doctrine, ’’ sapientia doctrina 2 , 
wherein the Abbot ought to excel ; such is the treasury of 
knowledge whence he should unceasingly find the traditional 
maxims and also new fights for the directing of those who are 
at the school of the Lord’s service 3 ” : Ut sciat unde prof er at 
nova et vetera*. In the ritual for the blessing of the Abbot, 
the Church implores for him from God the thesaurum 
sapientiae ut sciat et habeat unde nova et vetera proferai. 

In this as in all things, Christ, " the Wisdom of God ", 
Sapientia Dei, remains the Model. '' I am the Truth, " Jesus 
has said. He came into this world to render testimony to 
the truth. J 

TL „ A LL-r •_ j _ « 


The Abbot is to remember that he has received a participa- 
tion in the dignity and mission of the Prince of Pastors ; 
he is to strive ever to contemplate in prayer the Divine law 
brought by Christ, and to be united with Him by faith. 
Then only will he be in his turn a beacon-light of truth 
enlightening the hearts of his monks with the pure rays of 
heavenly doctrine. For, to use another metaphor, his great 
duty is to infuse this divine truth into the minds of his 
isciples like the leaven which is to permeate every action : 

Sit iZplzxr M ° ime ■” 


taS Ce nf, n f ece - sity °f perfect orthodoxy in the doctrine 
taught. Christ, in making Peter the shepherd of the 

the?aith d hk S ’- g l VG h - m the privile g e of never erring in 
the Scessitv 13 not g^nted to the Abbot, hence 
nrfw ty I h , takm g constant care to assure the perfect 

feed h^ockte 7 1 h / S , d ° Ctrine ’ not on!y that F P e e “ e a C y 
ffive uoisoned fS i*? U a g ainst enemies who would 
S Sheep ' . T . he Abbot must be ever 

the sSeufSd If %■ R ng ®r? ° pmions find their way into 

the ffin. “ *T G„ l d Ca “ y / e , qUir “ ', hat 

divina 0 it k in tw v. ,. ot J 0d, doctum in lege 

condemn them Listen tntH™ 7 dlscern errors an d pitilessly 

holy Patriarch shows how meftTthe™^ Wh ??™ ith 

uow g fcat 1S the responsibility that 


ctitaSt’S, w, - 2 5 . md’. ok <r i 3 bid. r c^x,^: 4- RuIe> ch ’ lxiv : 


i 

i 

i 


THE ABBOT, CHRIST’S REPRESENTATIVE 47 

lies with the head of the monastery : " The Abbot ought not 
(God forbid !) to teach, or ordain, or command anything 
contrary to .tfie law^pf the Lord. Let the Abbot be ever 
mindfiil that at* the dreadful judgment of God, an account 
will have to be given both of his own teaching and of the 
obedience of ’ his disciples. And let him know that to the 
fault of the shepherd shall be imputed any detriment, how- 
ever small it be, which the Father of the household may find 
that His sheep have suffered... 1 ” For the reading before 
Compline the Abbot must allow only the canonical Scriptures 
or the writings of the Fathers who are acknowledged as 
.'(orthodox and “ Catholic. 2 " In the divine worship he is to 
be inspired by the traditions of the Roman Church, Sicut 
psallit Ecclesia romana 3 . 

You see the constant solicitude that appears throughout 
the Rule ; as shepherd, the Abbot is to keep in continual 
contact with Him’ in Whose place he stands so as to guide 
the flock, entrusted to his care, into fertile pastures “ even 
to the mountain of God ” : Usque ad montem Dei*. 

This is a redoubtable responsibility upon which St. Bene- 
dict, in several passages, insists with more than ordinary 
force. Let the Abbot, he says, hold it of indubitable truth 
that it is not only for 'his own soul, but for the souls of all 
his disciples that he will have to give a strict account on 
the Judgment Day., This wholesome fear of God’s inevitable 
judgments, adds the holy Lawgiver, will make the Abbot 
attentive, and in the care he must take in directing Christ’s 
sheep, he will find the occasion of keeping himself pure and 
stainless in God’s sight 6 . 

It is on this condition alone that St. Benedict guarantees 
to him that heavenly bliss promised by God to the faithful 
steward who in due season distributes to his fellow servants 
the bread of revealed doctrine, the wheat of divine wisdom : 
Dum bene niinistravit, cmdiat a Domino quod servus bonus, qui 
erogavit triticum conservis suis in tempore suo: amen dico 
nobis, ait, super omnia bona constiluet eum c . 

II. 

To the ideal frequently evoked in the Rule by the word 
pastor, the Church, in her ceremonial for the blessing of the 
Abbot, joins that of pontiff. 

. By the formulas of .her- invocations, her rites, the exterior 

i. Rule, ch. II. — 2. Cf. ix, and lxxiii. — 3. Ibid. ch. xm. — 4. Cf. in. 
Reg. xix, 8. — 5. Rule, ch. n. — 6. Ibid. ch. lxiv ; cf. Matth. xxiv, 47. 


I 






THE MONK 


insignia wherewith she invests the one elected, the Bride of 
Christ signifies in the eyes of all, the quality of pontiff which 
she attaches to the function of the head of the monastery 
blessed by her. 

In this again, the Abbot represents Christ ; he is to seek, 
in the measure of his weakness, to attain this lofty ideal 
by the holiness of his life. This is what St. Benedict requires 
of him ; at the same time as " the wisdom of doctrine, ” 
the abbot is to possess moral merit : vitae meritum A 

Personal holiness is indeed necessary to a Pontiff. Every 
high priest, says St. Paul, is an intermediary between God 
and man 2 ; it is through him that the people’s petitions 
are offered to God, and that God's gifts are communicated 
to souls. He cannot draw near to God and effectually plead 
the cause of the people unless he is, by reason of his puritv 
pleasing to God. 

Christ, called by the Father to be the unique High Priest, 
by His own right, is " holy, innocent, undefiled, separated 
from sinners, and made higher than the heavens 3 ” being 
the very Son of God, He is the object of God’s delight. This 
is why He can efficaciously plead our cause. To the grace of 
personal holiness is added, in Jesus, the gratia capitis, which 
makes of Him our Head ” an all-powerful Mediator, Whose 
ir e , and sanctity^ are communicated to His whole Mystical 
Body. Each action of Jesus is at once a homage of supreme 
love for His Father and a source of grace for mankind. 

, 4 s fa £ as human frailty allows, something analogous ought 

° « A il C f- e Wlth the head of the monastery As soon 
as the Abbot is canonically appointed, the Church beseeches 
God to communicate to him " the spirit of. the grace of 

him^hp Hpto S f C )f ra J S ^ . ma y P^ ease God to pour upon 

J of abundant blessings. ” The Bishop, extending 

, - ve ? r ^ ea( ^ the one elected, prays that he 

^Lordt ? b i 0t by I he Iaying of hand'sVy ever be 

From 1CCt ’ W ? rt . h J ° f being sanctified by Him. ” 
and to hP™ r, ent ’ Abbot has t0 endeavour to live 
brethren eC °He shn^lr^h loage for bim self alone, but for his 
Priest Who7p ii v d ^ able t0 say > like tb e Supreme High 

souls confided to him ^ bolme . ss a P d fruitfulness of 

naea to Hun, that the people who serve the Lord 

*' Rule ' ch - “IV.— 2. Cl, Hebr. v.i.— , Ibid ,r 

i 3 - ibia. vn, 26. — 4. Joan, xvn, 19 


THE ABBOT, CHRIST'S REPRESENTATIVE 49 

may increase in merit and in number ” : Et merito el numero 
populus tibi serviens augeatur 1 . 

Each degree of the union of his soul with God, each step 
that he takes in the path of holiness, will render him more 
powerful with God, more fruitful in his supernatural action 
on minds and hearts. 

This it is that gives such vast importance to the personal 
holiness that St. Benedict requires of the Abbot. 

The Abbot is constantly to remember, says St. Benedict, 
that he has to bring souls to God 2 . Now in a supernatural 
society, the head is to be the pattern of his flock : Forma 
gregis ex ' animo s . 

It is incontestable that the Abbot leaves his own impression 
on the monastery, and casts upon it his own reflection. It 
is exact to say : as the Abbot, so is the monastery. If you 
read monastic history, you will see how this truth is verified. 
The first Abbots of Cluny : Odo, Odilo, Majolus, Hugh, are 
four great admirable Saints whom the Church has placed 
on her altars. Such glory did their holiness shed on the 
celebrated Abbey that it was called " the court of Angels ” : 
Deambulatorium angelorum 4 . And as each one of them had 
a long reign, the history of the two first centuries of Cluny 
reads like a fairy tale of holiness. After them came an Abbot 
who was far from possessing the holiness of his predecessors; 
Cluny visibly fell away from the path of perfection ; to bring 
it back, the efforts of a new Saint, Peter the Venerable, 
were needed. 

This example among a thousand others proves that the 
Abbot is truly the living Rule, fashioning to his own image 
the monastery that he governs. 

Again personal holiness is necessary to the Abbot in order 
that he may be enabled to fulfil his office of mediator. 
St. Gregory says somewhere in his writings that if an am- 
bassador is not persona grata with the sovereign to whom 
he is sent, far from promoting the cause he is charged to 
plead, he risks compromising it. He says further that the 
pontiff cannot effectually intercede for his flock unless he is, 
by the sanctity of his life, a familiar friend of God 5 . It is 
not sufficient, therefore, that a conduct pure and beyond 
reproach should be required from the Abbot so that he may, 

1. Collect super populum for Tuesday in Passion Week. — • 2. Rule, ch. 11. 
— 3 . 1 Petr, v, 3. — 4. Vita S. Hugon. aucL Hildeberto, Migne, P. L. t. i59 t 
885. - — 5. Qua mente apud Deum intercessionis locum pro populo arripit qu\ 
f ant Hi are m se ejus gratiae esse per vitae meritum nescit ? Reg. Past. 1, 10. Lex 
levitarum by Bishop Hediey. Under the pen of the great Pope are to be 
remarked the terms vitae meritum employed by S* Benedict. 


50 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

by his example, draw his sons after him in the way of holi- 
ness ; he must be conspicuous for “ the merit of his life ”, 
vitae meritwn 1 , in order the more effectually to plead' the 
cause of his flock with God. We here touch on the highest 
condition of vital radiation that the head can exert on the 
members of the monastic society. Do we not often see, in 
the Old Testament, the heads of Israel, such as Moses, 
obtain Divine favours for the people because they were 
by their holiness, the friends of God ? 

Was not Moses in this an anticipated figure of Christ, the 
one Mediator, Who was to appease the Father’s justice, 
restore the heritage to us, and bring us all' heavenly gifts ? 
But why did our Divine Pontiff say that He was always 
heard by the Father, if not because being " holy, innocent, 
undefiled... and made higher than the heavens 2 , " He is, 
essentially, " the Son of His love 3 ? ” 

If then the Abbot wishes to fulfil worthily his mission of 
head of the monastic society, he must strive unceasingly to 
remain united to the Godhead. In Christ Jesus, the Human- 
ity was united hypostatically to the Divine Word, and, 
through this union, obtained floods of graces which overflow- 
ed from the Sacred Humanity upon souls. By analogy, in 
the measure which his lowly condition as man permits, the 
Abbot should live united to the Word that he may draw 
from His treasures of wisdom and knowledge M the graces 
he is to shed upon his flock. 

He will only attain to this fruitful union by a life of prayer. 
Like Moses upon the mountain, he must remain on terms of 
familiarity with God, that he may be able to communicate 
to his brethren the Lord’s commandments, and the lights 
received in assiduous intercourse with the Father of Lights 
from Whom comes down " every perfect gift *. ” 

III. , 


We shall have but an imperfect idea of the mission that 
St. Benedict assigns to the Abbot if we do not bring forward 
two dominant qualities which the Lawgiver of monks em- 

t0 be necessaiy t0 him - These are to - 

RiSTafst 1 GrZlrfs the ch r acteristics of St. Benedict’s 

^areetkalRui^J ru™? 5 111 , contr asting it with the 
other ascetical Rules of Christian antiquity. But this quality 

Ub? Vo*' ™ 7 vl- Hebn V11 ’ 26 - ~ 3 - Col. ., 13. - 4. Jac. ,, , 7 . _ 5 . 


THE ABBOT, CHRIST’S REPRESENTATIVE 5 1 

shines out especially in the chapter concerning the Abbot. 
In the guidance of souls, St. Benedict wills the Abbot to 
exercise discretion " the mother of virtues 1 . ” What are we 
to understand by discretion ? 

It is the supernatural art of discerning and measuring all 
things in view of the end ; of adapting every means, each 
according to its nature and circumstances, to the obtaining 
of the end. This end is to bring souls to God : Ut animae 
salventur 2 . And to bring them in such a manner that the 
monks may fulfil their task willingly. Therefore, says the 
holy Legislator, the Abbot must " well temper all things ” ; 
Omnia tembcret 3 ; and explaining his thought more fully, 
he summarises from this point of view, the work of the Abbot 
in a very precise and significant formula : He is “ to accom- 
modate himself to the diversity of characters ” : Mullorum 
servire moribus 4 . 

Such is the golden Rule laid down for the practical conduct 
of the Abbot towards his brethren ; such is the noble device 
which, if well observed, will make him successful in the 
delicate and arduous art — St. Gregory calls it “ the art of 
arts 5 ” — of ruling souls : Sciat quam difficilem et arduam 
rem suscipit regere animas °. 

In this domain, St. Benedict requires of the Abbot a 
combination of contrasting qualities : strength linked with 
gentleness, authority tempered by love. See with what 
perfect tact he selects the terms designed to characterise 
the exercise of the aforesaid virtue of discretion. He wishes 
the Abbot to be zealous without anxiety, prudent without 
timidity 7 , ever seeking " the Kingdom of God and His 
justice, 8 " and yet in nowise neglecting the material care 
of the monastery which he has to administer wisely, with 
prudence and justice 9 -; "loving the brethren but hating 
sin 10 ; ” using prudence even in correction for fear lest “ in 
seeking too eagerly to scrape off the rust, the vessel be bro- 
ken 11 the Abbot is to vary his conduct with great pliability, 
according to the circumstances and dispositions of each : one 
is of an open character, another is reserved ; in one the 
intellect predominates, in another sensibility ; here he finds 
docility, there self-will ; he must adapt himself to every 
temperament : Miscens temporibus tempora terroribus blandi- 
menta 13 ; showing the severity of a master to the disobedient 
disciple : Dirum magistri; to the upright soul seeking God, 

i. Rule, ch. lxiv. — 2. Ibid. ch. xli. — 3. Ibid. ch. lxiv. — 4. Ibid. ch. 11. 

5. Regula pasioralis, I, 1. — 6. Rule, ch. 11. — 7. Ibid. ch. lxiv. — 8. 
Ibid. ch. n, — 9 . Ibid. ch. m and passim. — 10 and xx. Ibid. ch. lxiv. — 12. 
Ibid. ch. 11. 


52 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONIi 


THE ABBOT, CHRIST’S REPRESENTATIVE 


the tenderness of a father : Pium patris ostendat affectum *. 
To the well-endowed souls, eager to find God, it suffices for 
the Abbot to set before them the heavenly doctrine '.Capaci bus 
discipulis mandata Domini verbis proponat ; to those of simpler 
minds or of a more difficult temperament, the pastor will 
point out the way by his own example : Duris vero cordc et 
simpUcioribus factis suis divina praecepta demonstret 2 . One 
he must win by kindness, another by reproofs, yet another 
by persuasion and force of- reasoning : Et odium quidem 
blandimentis, alium vero increpationibus, alium suasionibus 3 . 
It is only at this price that " far from having to suffer any 
detriment in the flock committed to his care he will be able 
to rejoice in its increase in goodness A ” 

In summing up this riiagnificent teaching on discretion, 
the holy Lawgiver gives us finally this lapidary formula 
dictated by his great experience of souls and his distinctly 
Roman genius, so skilful in the management of men : “ Let 
the Abbot so temper all things that strong souls may give 
rein to their holy ambition, and the weak need not be 
discouraged : Sic omnia temper et ut sit et fortes quod cupiant 
et mfirmi non refugiant r \ 


IV. 

Is discretion the sole dominant virtue that St. Benedict 
requires of the Abbot ? No, he furthermore wishes him to 
add love thereto ; or rather it is to be the love of souls which 
wiU make his supernatural tact more delicate. It is because 
he loves souls well and individually that he will have it at 
br “ g . them , to Christ, according to their talents and 
aptitudes, their weaknesses, needs and aspirations. 

Triniiv S r -nf 0Ur gaze ! or instant tow ards the Adorable 
There we contemplate the Word Who, with the 

Arnhem 3 ?? Spirit of Love = V erbum spirans 

rT sir 

SSSataSt Pi H " m " aU Mrmitg 
Who knows ’how to be mercTfuf C ° m P assionate High Priest 

misericors fierei 8 . human weakness : ut 

St. Benedict, so full of the spirit of the Gospel, lets this 

Ibid, xv, 13.— 'sjHebrf h/wT" 5 ' Ib ‘ d ' Ch- LXIV -— G. Joan, x, 11 and 15. — 7. 


53 

spirit of mercy abound throughout his Rule. See with what 
goodness he will have the Abbot or the officials who replace 
him, treat children 1 , old men 2 , the brothers in delicate 
health 8 , pilgrims , the poor 6 ; what humanity full of' noble 
delicacy he shows to guests and strangers c ; what attentive 
solicitude he requires towards the sick 7 : how the chapters 
he consecrates to Christ’s suSering members reveal the great 
Patriarch’s tenderness ! 

But it is especially in the chapter on the Abbot that 
St. Benedict gives a precept of love to the Father of the 
monastery : Dili gat fratres 8 . The Abbot is to love the monks; 
and love them deeply, with equal love for all : Non unus 
plus ametur quam alius °, because, adds St. Benedict, " we 
are all one in Christ ; and in Christ there is neither bond nor 
free ; ” for all are called to the same grace of adoption, and 
to be partakers of the same heavenly inheritance. 

However, in the same way as God looks with more com- 
placency on those who most bear in themselves the features 
of His Son Jesus — since that is the ideal of our predestina- 
tion — so the Abbot may evince more love towards those 
who most nearly approach this Divine Model by their good 
deeds and obedience : Nisi quern in bonis actibus aut 

obedientia mvenerit meliorem 10 . 

St. Benedict insists much on this love that the Abbot ought 
to have for his sons. He wishes the Abbot “ to study to 
be loved rather than feared : that is to say his government 

ought to be free from any tyranny, Studeat plus amari quam 
timeri n . And this love of the Abbot for his monks ought to 
go to the utmost extent. Read the chapter where St. Bene- 
dict sets forth in detail the solicitude that the Abbot should 
show to those who fall into any fault : Omni sollicitudine 
curam gerat abbas circa delinquentes fratres 12 . And the 
Legislator of monks recalls the example of the Good Shepherd 
Who leaves the ninety nine faithful sheep to go after the 
one that is lost. 

This kindness is in nowise to degenerate into culpable 
weakness. Look at Jesus Christ. Full as He is of love and 
pity for souls. He is equally full of hatred for evil. He 
forgives Magdalen, and the woman taken in adultery ; He 
bears, with how much goodness ! the shortcomings of His 
disciples ; but what severity he shows to vice, above all to 
Pharisaical pride ! 

So the Abbot, holding the place of Christ, ought to strive. 

1. Rule, ch; xxxvii. — 2. Ibid. — 3. Ibid. ch. xxxvi. 4. Ibid. ch. Lin. 
— 5 and 6. Ibid. — ■ 7. Ibid. ch. xxxvi. — 8. Ibid. ch. lxiv. — 9 and jo. 
Ibid. ch. 11 — 11. Ibid. ch. lxiv. — 12. Ibid. ch. xxvn. 


54 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


THE ABBOT, CHRIST’S REPRESENTATIVE 


55 


— however " difficult and arduous the task ” : difficile m el 
arduam rem — to imitate in this, the Divine Model : “ Let 
him love the brethren but hate vice ” : Diligal fratres, oderit 
vitia. If a monk has to be corrected in anything, the Abbot 
should rebuke him with great charity and fatherly love. It 
is certain that a too severe Superior can do much harm to 
souls ; it is no less true that fervour will suffer in a monastery 
where an easy-going Abbot does not correct faults, and never 
refuses anything to anyone. However, in all this matter, 
it is charity that must be the motive power of his conduct. 
It may happen that during a long time a monk does not 
give what is rightly to be expected of him. What is to be 
done in this case ? Is the Abbot to cease to concern himself 
about this soul ? On the contrary, he will with great patience 
await the hour of grace. He will remember too that all 
souls are not called to the same degree of perfection, and he 
will show more indulgence towards those whose ascent is 
slower and more painful. 

But what is the Abbot to do when he has to deal with one 
who has a truly bad spirit ? St. Benedict wishes him to 
use severity, “ the sword of separation ” : jar rum abscissionis, 
“ lest ” he says, “ one diseased sheep should infect the whole 
flock. 1 ” However, as long as he does not meet with 
incorrigible obstinacy, the Abbot is to “ abound in mercy, " 
after Jesus Christ's example : Supcrexaltet misericordiam 
judicio, so that, as Christ has promised in the Beatitudes, he 
may benefit by a like indulgence, Ut idem ipse consequatur s , 
for “ he ought ever to remember his own frailty ” : suamque 
fragilitatem semper suspectus sit 3 . 

The beautiful words uttered by the Patriarch in reference 
to the administration of the cellarer are first to be verified 
in the government of the Abbot : “ Let no one in the mo- 
nastery, which is ” the house, ’’ " the family, ” of God, be 
troubled or grieved : Ut nemo perturbetur neque contristetur 
in domoDei «. In simple and upright hearts, sincerely seeking 
God and living by His grace, joy should superabound, and, 
Witli joy, the peace that passeth all understanding. 6 ” 


rrli have seen that at the very beginning of the chapter 
concerning the Abbot, St. Benedict lays down this fundamen- 

1 m the moi ? a ^ er y Abbot holds the place 

of Christ , this we must believe : Abbas Christi agere vices 

PhiiiD R w,’7 C . h ' XXVm — 2and 3 ‘ Ibid - <*• *■»*._ 4 Ibid. ch. xxxi. 5 . - 


in monasteno credilur. This principle may also serve cor- 
relatively to characterise the attitude of monks faithful to 
their vocation. 

This is a thought of capital importance to us, because the 
monastery constitutes a supernatural society where we live 
by faith : Justus mens ex fide vivit 1 . Notice the word cre- 
ditur. It is an eminent act of faith that is to illumine all 
our conduct and make all our deeds fruitful. Either you 
believe or you believe not. If you do not believe with a firm 
faith, then you will, little by little, insensibly but infallibly, 
end by detaching yourself from the Superior, from his 
person and his teaching. But at the same time, and to the 
• same extent you will separate yourself from the principle 
of grace, for we must know, says St. Benedict, that it is by 
this path of obedience that we come to God : Scientes se per 
hanc obedientiae viam ituros ad Deum 2 . 

If you believe that the Abbot represents Christ, your 
attitude towards him will be ruled by this belief. This 
attitude will be composed of love, docility of mind, obedience 
of action. « 

The Abbot, as the name which St. Benedict wishes to 
retain for him, itself denotes, is “ Father " : A bba Pater. 
And the holy Lawgiver requires that his monks shall have 
“ a sincere and humble affection for their Abbot " : Abbatem 
SUUM sincera et humili caritate diligant 3 . 

It is in nowise requisite to have a sensible love or one of 
enthusiasm ; it would be childishness to claim this ; but 
it must be a supernatural love given to God, Who is seen 
by faith in the person of the head of the monastery. 

St. Benedict wishes that this love be " sincere and humble, " 
sincere because humble. The whole list of qualities that he 
requires in the Abbot is so complete and so remarkable, 
that it is almost impossible to find it perfectly realised in 
j one man. Few Superiors combine in themselves that har- 
monious sum of diverse perfections which the great Patriarch 
1 has gathered together in one full sheaf. The Abbot has 
certainly graces of state, but these do not essentially modify 
i his nature ; and every man, with the best will in the world 
remains inferior to his ideal. 

What are we then to do in presence of the deficiencies, 
failings and imperfections which may be discovered in the 

i i. Hcbr. x, 38. — 2. Rule, ch. lxxi. S* Benedict uses these words in refc^ 

j rence to the obedience that the brethren are to have one to the other. But 

i this mutual obedience supposes obedience to the Superior, and what is said 

l of the spiritual fruits of the first applies a fortiori to the latter, — 3, Rule, 
ch. lxxh. 



56 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

Abbot, our Abbot, says St. Benedict, he who, for us, represents 
Christ ? Are we going to bring up these shortcomings, 
analyse or discuss them with others in order to criticise or 
censure them ? Such a way of acting would destroy the 
spirit of faith, and be far from that " humble and sincere 
affection ”, sincera et humili caritatc, desired by the holy 
Legislator. Nothing would do more harm to a soul because 
nothing is more contrary to the letter and spirit of our 
religious profession. 

Let us know how to abstain with the greatest care from 
these criticisms and recriminations. And if a brother 
should come to us to complain of the Superior in a critical 
spirit, the greatest charity we could show him would be to 
recall to him his Profession and bring him back to the spirit 
of generous donation and humble submission vowed on that 
day. Let us throw a cloak of love over the imperfections 
of the Superior, following the example of two of Noe’s sons : 
far from imitating their brother in his mockeries, they 
covered their father’s nakedness with a mantle. You know 
how they were blessed for doing so, and what a curse the 
unhappy Cham brought upon himself L All the murmurings 
and criticisms, not to speak of railleries, against the Superior 
do nothing to change the situation that one may think 
blameworthy or open to disapproval ; they often only 
embitter it, casting trouble into souls, and thereby depriving 
them of peace and joy and diminishing their intimate union 
with God : such things draw down upon those who thus 
separate themselves from the Superior, the malediction 
fallen upon Cham. 

It is a like chastisement that St. Benedict himself, full as 
he is of compassionate loving kindness, calls down upon the 
turbulent and disobedient who, despising or making light 
of the advice given to them, still rebel against their Pastor’s 
care: death itself, having the last word, shall be their 
punishment : Paena sit eis praevalens ipsa mors 2 . 

Do we not find the equivalent of a malediction in the 
grave words one day addressed by Our Lord Himself to 
St. Margaret Mary on this subject ? We cannot read them 
without trembling Listen attentively to these words falling 

nniw th t e kP s . of Tr uth itself : “ All religious who are not 
united to their Superiors may look upon themselves as 
reprobation— -in which good liquors are corrupted ; 

but S « 6 f Sh ‘T, g 0f the Divine Sun Justice has 

but the same effect as the sun shining on the slime of the 

I. Gea. ix, 21, 25. _ 2 . Rufe, cll- 


THE ABBOT, CHRIST’S REPRESENTATIVE 57 

earth. These souls are so far removed from My Heart that 
the more they strive to approach me by means of the 
Sacraments, prayer and other pious exercises, the further 
I withdraw Myself in horror from them. They will go from 
one hell to another, for it is this disunion which has been 
the loss of so many, and which will be the ruin of so many 
yet to come, because every Superior, whether he be good or 
bad holds My place. That is why the inferior/thinking to 
harm the Superior, inflicts so many, and such mortal wounds 
on his own soul. After all, it is in vain for him to sigh at 
the gates of mercy — he will not be heard if I do not hear 
the voice of the Superior. ’’ 

VI. 

This humble and sincere love for the Abbot is to be mani- 
fested by a great docility of mind to his teaching and a 
generous obedience to his commands. Here again faith is 
the true light. 

God, Who does all things with wisdom, adapts His action 
to our nature. He speaks to the intellect in order to touch 
the will, light becomes the source of action. Therefore, says 
the Apostle, “It pleased God, by the foolishness of our preach- 
ing, to save them that believe " : placuit Deo per stullitiam 
praedicationis salvos facer e credentes l . This good pleasure of 
God, like all His ways, is adorable. Remark that Christ 
did not ordain His Apostles to write, but to preach, and by 
this means, God has renewed the face of the earth. It is 
the Word Who sanctifies souls, but to reach them He took 
a human and tangible form. This same Word likewise takes 
a sensible form by preaching. While the word from the 
lips of men strikes the bodily ears, the internal Word reaches 
the mind and is instilled sweetly and mightily into the will: 
Fides ex atiditu 2 .. 

But, continues the Apostle, how are men to believe unless 
preachers are sent ? Quomodo credent nisi mittantur 3 ? 
Christ has provided for that : “ Behold I send you... Go 
preach to every creature ” : Ecce mitto vos: ite, praedicate 
Evangelium omni creaturae A And those sent by Christ do 
not speak in their own name but in His : “ He that heareth 
you heareth Me ; and he that despiseth you, despiseth 
Me ’’ : Qui vos audit me audit, qui vos spernit me spemit 5 . 
God exhorts through these ambassadors of Christ : Pro 

i. I Cor. i, 21. — 2. Rom. x, 17. — 3. Ibid. — 4. Luc. x, 3 ; Marc, xvi, 15. 
«- 5 . Luc. x, 16. 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



53 


Christo legationc fungimur tamquam Deo cxhortante per nos *. 
Hence the word they speak is not " as the word of men, 
but (as it is indeed) the word of God 2 . ” For do you not 
know, says St. Paul again, it is “ Christ that speaketh in 
me ” : In me loquitur Christus 3 ? 

Thus the obligation that all lawful pastors have of dis- 
tributing the bread of doctrine to their flock cannot suffer 
dispensation. This obligation reaches the Abbot who, as we 
have seen, according to the will of St. Benedict, and in virtue 
of his appointment, is missus, that is to say established 
by the Church over a portion of Christ’s flock. 

But the word of the Abbot, like that of each one sent by 
Christ, like that of Christ Himself, does not always produce 
the same effects. What was said of the Humanity of Jesus, 
namely, that it was " set for the fall, and for the resurrection 
of many ” : Ecce positus est hie in ruinam et inresurrectionem 
multorum 4 , is true of every evangelical word. It is a seed of 
life, but it only bears fruit, as the Word declares, in well 
disposed hearts 5 . Christ is the Son of God, Eternal Wisdom ; 
all His teaching, full of the unction of the Holy Ghost, is, as 
He Himself declares, " spirit and life 8 . ” And yet during 
the years of His ministry what did those men say who listened 
to Him while their .hearts were not right with God, those 
who tried to entrap Him in His speech ? “ This saying is 

hard ; and who can hear it ? ” Durus est hie sermo, et quis 
potest cum audire’’ ? Were these hearers, these disciples, 
lacking in intelligence ? No, but their hearts resisted. And 
the result of this inward attitude was that they left Jesus 
to their own great loss " and walked no more with Him ” : 
Et -jam non cum illo ambulabant 8 . Consider the behaviour 
of the Apostles under these same circumstances. They hear 
the same Jesus pronounce the same words, but, for these 
u P r4 Kht hearts, they are the words of salvation : 

Will you also go away ? ” asks the Master. And they 
answer : ‘ Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the 
words of eternal life 9 . ’’ Whence arises the difference be- 
tween these two groups of souls ? From the dispositions 
of the heart. ^ 


There is an important word at the beginning of the Pro- 
W®' .he great Patriarch invites us to receive his teaching 
with joy , hbenter , and toils us to incline the ear of our 


au n dit - us Dei ‘ accepisth 

v°bis qui crcdidislis. I Thess ./ % Cor xn.T 1 T,‘, i ” 

li/risT' I5 ‘ “ 6 - Joan ' v; - 6 <- l 


THE ABBOT, CHRIST’S REPRESENTATIVE 59 

heart towards his word that we may the better put it into 
practice. Inclina aurem cordis tui l . If the mind alone hears 
without the heart’s co-operation, God’s word does not bring 
forth all its fruit. If you do not listen to the word of 
him, who holds the place of Christ towards you, with faith, 
humility and in a childlike spirit, as St. Benedict desires 
(admonitionem patris) 2 , but in a spirit of ciiticism or simply 
with a closed heart, this word, even if it came from a saint, 
would remain barren and might even be hurtful 3 . And on 
the day of judgment we shall be asked to give an account 
of all the teachings by which we have not chosen to profit. 
Therefore the Psalmist exclaims : “ Today if you shall hear 
[the Lord’s] voice, harden not your hearts ” : Hodie si 
vocem eius audieritis, nolite obdurare corda vestra *. And 
how do we harden our hearts ? By pride of spirit. 

" Yea rather, Blessed are they who hear the word of 
God and keep it, ” even when they are, or think themselves, 
more learned than the one who speaks r Beati qui audiunt 
verbum Dei 6 . Receiving this word (it is still the same idea) 
with “ a good and perfect heart” : corde bono et optima, they 
will bring forth at the heavenly harvest that “ hundredfold ” 
that “ very much fruit ” which alone rejoices our Heavenly 
Father because in this is He glorified : In hoc clarificatus 
est Pater mens, ul fruclum plurimum alferatis 6 . ' 

VII. 

To docility of mind, St. Benedict wishes the monk to 
ojin obedience of action and “ for the love of God to submit 
himself to his superior in all obedience ” : Pro Dei amore 
omni obedientia se subdat majori 7 . But as the great Patriarch 
devotes a special and important chapter to this virtue, we 
will treat of it further on. What is to be noted here is a 
twofold aspect very characteristic of St. Benedict’s teaching. 
On the one hand, there is a rare width of view in the 
material organisation of the monastic life ; on the other 
hand, an almost boundless fidelity to the least details of the 
observance, when once established by authority, is required. 

Far removed from all parti-pris, from all formalism, the 
Lawgiver of monks leaves the regulation of many details, 

1. St Gregory likewise employs this expression more than once : Si ipse 
verba Dei audit qui ex Deo est, et audire verba ejus non potest quisquis de illo 
non est, interroget se unusquisque si verba Dei in aure cordis percipit; et intelliget 
unde sit. Homilia 18 in Evang. — 2. Prologue of the Rule, — 3. S 4 Paul 
speaks of the enlightening of the eyes of the heart as necessary for knowing 
the truth. (Eph. 1, 18.) — 4. Ps. xciv, 8. — 5 * Luc. xi, 28. — 6. Joan, xv, 
8. — 7 - Rule, ch. vii. 



6o CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


sometimes even points of consequence, to the Abbot’s power 
of discretion. Thus in the matter of food, he refrains from 
fixing the quantity or quality with too much precision, for 
“ everyone has his proper gift from God 1 ” in what regards 
corporal necessities ; in case of illness or delicate health, he 
allows “ the use of meat 2 , and more generally a moderate 
' use of wine 3 ; when the labour of the monks is harder than 
usual, the Abbot has the faculty of increasing the customary 
portion 4 ”. St. Benedict leaves a like latitude in what 
concerns the quality of the clothing : the Abbot is to decide 
according to the requirements of the climate and other 
considerations s . In the matter of penances and punishments 
for faults committed, much is left again to the Abbot’s 
judgment : Culparum modus in abbalis pendet arbitrio 6 ; we 
find the same discretion, — and this seems astonishing — 
relatively to the distribution of psalms in the Divine Office : 
in proposing an order to be adopted in the psalmody, the 
holy Legislator adds that he does not wish to impose this 
order; if any Abbot finds a better arrangement, he is free 
to adopt it 7 . 

The extent of the Abbot’s authority is, in some ways, 
indefinite. All, from the prior and cellarer down to the last 
of the brethren, must submit to the decision of the Abbot ; 
In abbalis pendeat arbitrio, utquod salubrius esse judicaverit, 
et cuncti obediant 8 ; every action done knowingly without 
the Abbot s authorisation is imputed to presumption and, 
however slight a matter it may be, its author will be 
subjected to a penance ■ Vindictae regulari subjacent qui prae- 
sumpseYit... quippiam quamvis parvum sine abbalis ju.,sione 
jacere °. This entire submission naturally extends' to the 
use of material objects : It is not licit to have anything 

whatsoever that the Abbot has not given, or authorised to 
receive . Nec quidquam liceat habeYe quod Abbas non dederit 
aut permisent l0 . St. Benedict goes still further - even the 
supererogatory acts of mortification that the monks wish to 
undertake are accounted by him presumption and vainglory 
and as unworthy of reward, if the Abbot has not been 
consulted m this respect and if they have not had the 

th™ 1 ?,! °h hlS C0I !i en l and ° f his P ra y ers - “ Let everything 
then be done with the approval of the Abbot ” : Ergo cum 
voluntate abbalis omma agenda sunt 11 . 

How are we to explain these apparently contradictory 


ibM.dfivx IX XL _7 ibS i ch ch l ; v xxx 6 ?™ xx h x,x - ~ 3 ‘ Ibid - ch - »- - 4. 
- 8. Ibid. ch. iii, - 9 ibid ch L^II t C n ~ 7 - lbid - ch - ™n. 
ch. xux. LXVU - I0 - Ib »d. ch. XXXIII. — n. Ibid. 


THE ABBOT, CHRIST^ REPRESENTATIVE 6l 

attitudes ? How reconcile these extreme requirements with 
these broad views ? St. Benedict had too enlightened a mind 
to place monastic perfection in such or such a detail of the 
common life taken in itself : it would have been a pharisaical 
tendency repugnant to his great soul. These details un- 
doubtedly have their importance, but they do not constitute 
the matter of perfection. The form of perfection is some- 
thing far higher. It is the absolute tradition of the monk 
to God’s Will by a loving and generous obedience. This is 
why St. Benedict shows himself so exacting once this Will 
is manifested, " for the obedience which is given to supe- 
riors is given to God " : Obedientia quae majoribus pYaebetur, 
Deo exhibetur 1 . Therefore, he adds, " Those who burn with 
love of eternal life... desire to have an Abbot over them. ” 
Our holy Father St. Benedict does not say that they " sup- 
port ” the authority of the head of the monastery, but that 
they desire ’’ it : A bbatem sibi pYaeesse desiderant 2 . So 
true is it that the holy Legislator sees in the obedience given 
through loye the very path that leads us to God : Scienles 
se per hanc viam Uuyos ad Deum 3 . 

Ever faithful to his essentially Christian method, the great 
Patriarch places before the eyes of his sons the One Example 
of all perfection : Christ Jesus. By obedience to their Abbot, 
they will imitate Him Who said : " I came not to do Mine 
own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me 4 . ” 

Never let us lose sight of this essential principle placed 
by St. Benedict at the very head of his Rule ; it perfectly 
synthetises our whole life ; it lights us all along our path like 
a luminous and kindly beacon. The Abbot holds the place 
of Christ. He is the head of the monastic society, the high 
priest and pastor. The monks should show him a humble 
and sincere affection, great docility of spirit and perfect 
obedience. 

A Benedictine community animated by such sentiments 
becomes veritably the palace of the King, a Paradise where 
Justice and Peace give one another the kiss of union 5 . 
From such souls who are “ truly seeking God ’’ goes up the 
inward, silent cry : “ Father, Thy will be done on earth as 
it is in Heaven ” : 'Pater, fiat voluntas tua sicut in coelo el in 
terra ! By humble prayer, constant dependence on Eternal 
Wisdom, and close union with the Prince of Pastors, the 
Abbot will endeavour to know this Divine will and set it 
before his brethren ; it is for them to do it with generous 
obedience inspired by love. 

i and z. Rule, ch. v. — 3. Ibid. ch. lxxi. — 4. Ibid. ch. vii ; c£. Joan, vi, 
38. — 5. Ps. LXXXIV, 11. 


f)2 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


And when (again to take up St. Benedict’s words) 1 , the Lord 
looks down to see if there be any who seek Him, He will 
find, in such a Community, hearts that are pleasing to Him 
because they imitate the Son of His love ; He will behold 
the realisation, as it were, of that ideal whereof He Himself 
speaks by His Spirit in the Scriptures : " This is the genera- 
tion of them that seek Him, of them that seek the face of 
the God of Jacob ” : Haec est generalio quacrentium Eum, 
quaerenlhim iaciem Dei Jacob 2 . 

Nothing more vividly translates all this admirable and fruit- 
ful supernatural doctrine than the conventual Mass celebrated 
by the Abbot surrounded by his sons. Vested in the insignia 
of his dignity, the head of the monastery offers the Sacred 
Victim to God, or rather, through his ministry, Christ, the 
Supreme High Priest and universal Mediator, offers Himself 
to the Father. The Abbot offers up to Heaven the homage, 
the vows, the very hearts of his monks, whence arises a 
perfume of sacrifice and of love, which the Father receives, 
through Christ, in the odour of sweetness : in odorem suavi- 
iatis 3 . 

In this solemn moment of the holy Oblation, when voices 
are blended in one and the same praise, hearts uplifted in 
the same spirit of adoration and love towards God, the Abbot 
worthy of the name can repeat the words uttered in the 
presence of His Disciples by the Divine Pastor, when He was 
about to give His life for His sheep : “ Father, Thine they 
were, and to me Thou gavest them... I pray not that Thou 
shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst 
keep them from evil... " May they be one among themselves 
and with me, as Thy Son is One with Thee... may Thy love 
abide in them, and to all may it one day be given to 
contemplate the glory of Thy Christ, and to be partakers of 
Thy blessed fellowship with Thy beloved Son and the Holy 
Spirit. J 

i. Prologue, — 2, Ps. xxm, 6. — 3. Exod. xxix, 41. 


IV. — THE CENOBITICAL SOCIETY. 


Summary. — I. Hierarchical relations of the Abbot with the monies. 
— H. Forms of activity that are to be manifested in the 
monastic society : prayer. — III. Work ; the spirit that should 
inspire it. — IV. Stability in the common life. — V. Mutual 
relations of the members of the Cenobitical society. — 
VI. Stability likewise attaches monks to their cloister. 


T he foundation stone of the cenobitical society having 
been laid in the person of the Abbot, it remains 
for us, in order to complete our broad outline of 
the Benedictine idea, to examine more closely the divers 
elements whence result the organic life and intimate 
existence of this society. 

We will first treat of the Abbot’s relations with the monks 
front the hierarchical point of view ; — we will next see 
what sort of activity ought to be manifested in the framework 
of this organisation, an activity which is summed up in 
prayer and work ; then stability in the common life will 
appear to us as one of the characteristic elements of cenobiti- 
cal existence ; — and we will conclude by indicating what 
should be the dispositions of those who dwell in the 
monastery, so that the ideal formed by the great Patriarch 
may be attained. 

I. 

We have already remarked that there is a striking analogy 
between the government instituted by St. Benedict and that 
of the Church, and this should in nowise astonish us in a 
Rule coming from one in whom the Christian sense is so 
closely allied to the Roman genius 1 . 

You know that the constitution given by Eternal Wisdom 
to His Church establishes a monarchical and hierarchical 
form of government, reflecting upon earth God’s supreme 

r - This is evidently only an analogy ; if points of similitude exist between 
the Church and the monastery, there are also differences, and some are 
considerable. We at once see those that are most important; in certain 
cases the Sovereign Pontiff is infallible, the head of the monastery nevei 
enjoys this 1 privilege ; the Pope’s authority is universal, that of the Abbot 
is restricted, etc. 



64 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

monarchy in Heaven and the hierarchy which reigns there. 

At the basis of the visible body which is His Church, 
Christ Jesus has placed a visible foundation, Peter and his 
successors. From them all power and jurisdiction is derived. 
In the same way, our Blessed Father makes the entire 
organisation of the monastery depend upon the Abbot ; 
Nos vidimus expedite... in abbatis pcnderc arbitrio ordinatio- 
nem monasterii sui A From the supreme abbatial authority 
flows all the activity of the monastery, and all delegation : 
the principal officials in the monastery, the prior, cellarer, 
deans are instituted by the Abbot. St. Benedict says that 
the Abbot is to appoint the Prior himself and for himself : 
Ordinet ipse sibi praeposilum 2 . Not only does the first 
investiture of these officials depend on the power of the Abbot, 
but, in the exercise of their charges, they must not undertake 
or carry out anything beyond the orders or wishes of the 
Abbot 3 . 

This centralisation of power within the hands of the Abbot 
is one of the most distinct ideas in the monastic code. 


Absolute as is the Abbot’s authority, we know however that 
it is not arbitrary. The Sovereign Pontiff, in his teaching, 
must follow Christ’s doctrine and the spirit of tradition ; 
in the same way, the Abbot, says St. Benedict, must not 
teach, ordain, or command anything contrary to the Divine 
precepts ; in all things he must, like his brethren follow 
the Rule : Omnes in omnibus sequantur Regulam ; but, as 
Christ’s Vicar is the authorised interpreter of the laws of 
the Church, so it is for the Abbot to regulate and, if needs 
be to decide the meaning of the letter of the monastic 
code, make modifications and permit the exceptions that 
he judges expedient for the good of the community 1 . 

Moreover the Abbot is not left to his own lights. The 
Council of Cardinals surround the Pope and guide him in • 
many circumstances ; the Abbot likewise finds counsel in the 
seniors semores, who enlighten him in manifold ordinary 
occasions where the life of the Abbey is interested. 

g0e f f fi her ' In affairs where the spiritual 
o temporal interests ot the monastery are seriously concerned ' 


a^a^alesmetp^funcla^ueriitl r ^» iia .n«ae 

tacicns, (c. lxv) ; cellarius “A v ohmialcm aut ordmahonem 

cusiodiat... Omnia quae ei iniunrmi^h! 11 *5?°**? f ao ‘ al , <!«ae jubentur 

turn prohibuerit non pmcsumat <x4if “ S ',‘ b ^ Um SUa : a quib,,s 

omnibus secundum frae ™* fllS Sem ’“- in 

noted that the Sovereign Pontiff ~ 4 ' 11 1S however to he 

laws since he himseuTthriawgfvS ° 1Dterpretcr of the Church's 


THE CENOBITICAL SOCIETY 


65 

he wishes the Abbot to call together the brethren, and himself 
lay before them the matter in question and ask their advice. 
And the reason our holy Legislator gives for this consultation 
is that it is often to the younger of the brethren that the Lord 
gives the most judicious views 1 . And this shows us once 
more the supernatural spirit that guided St. Benedict's pen 
in the drawing up of the Rule. This consultation is however 
very different from those which are held in parliaments.* 
St. Benedict wishes " the brethren to give their advice in 
all humility and subjection, without stubbornly upholding 
their opinion.’’ Then, the advice having been heard, it belongs 
to the Abbot to examine the matter himself and take the 
course which he considers to be best : Et audiens consilium 
fratrum tractet apud se, et quod utilius jndicaverit facial 2 . 
Doubtless, the Abbot must regulate everything with foresight 
and equity ; for he will have to render rigorous account of 
his administration to One Who is Infinite Justice. Further- 
more, the Church in her canon law has fixed the guaranties 
which surround several determined cases, such as the recep- 
tion of novices, in which the conclusion of the affair depends 
on the vote of the Community. 

As long as the question is in suspense, one ought to speak 
with humble frankness, at need with respectful boldness ; 
but once the Abbot has taken his decision, all, says St. Bene- 
dict,^ must obey: Ei cuncti obediant 3 . To murmur then, 
to discuss the matter judged, contendere, is an attitude that 
the holy Legislator rigorously condemns, because it is un- 
worthy and disloyal ; besides, nothing is more opposed to 
the spirit of faith and to the loving submission which should 
characterise the true monk. 

That patria poteslas granted to the Abbot by our Blessed 
Father St. Benedict gives us an insight into the family charac- 
ter which the cenobitical life ought to bear. The Kingdom 
of God is a family. We see that the liturgy often uses the 
! expression " God’s : household 4 ” to designate the Church. 
All Christians, God’s children by the grace of adoption, form, 
in fact, one family of whom the eldest is the Only-begotten 
Son, the Son of the Heavenly Father’s delight. All the 
other members are to resemble this eldest Son, according 
to the degree of their union with Him ; they are pleasing 
to God in the measure of perfection wherewith they reproduce 
the features of this Only-begotten One become the Firstborn 

i. Rule, ch. m. — 2. Ibid. — 3. Ibidi ch. hi. — 4. Collect for fifth Sunday 
af ter Epiphany ; first Sunday in Lent ; twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, 


66 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



of a multitude of brethren. This is indeed their divine 
" predestination ” ; Praedcstinavit [nos] conformed fieri ima- 
ginis Filii sni, ut sit ipse primogenitus in multis fratribus 1 . 

In this household of God, upon earth, the Sovereign Pontiff 
is the visible Father. The Abbot holds the same role in 
the little monastic family; he is truly, according to the 
great Patriarch’s own words, " the Father of the monastery ” 
who has to provide for all the needs of his children : Omnia 
a Palre monaslcrii sferarc 2 . All is ordered in this household 
which our Blessed Father calls “ the house of God 3 ” in 
such a way that the members may reproduce in themselves 
the features of the Eldest Brother, in Whose footsteps they 
are to tread. 

From this same principle of the patria potestas likewise 
flows the following application, generally confirmed by tra- 
dition, although the letter of it is not explicitly found in 
the Rule : the power of the Abbot, like that of the Sovereign 
Pontiff, is for life, that is to say, Providence alone is to put 
an end to the exercise of his authority at the same time as 
to his days. In other institutes of more modem times, 
the Superiors called Priors, Guardians, Rectors, are elected 
every three years ; for these institutes this is a condition 
of vitality and perfection ; in the Monastic Society which 
forms one family, the Abbot, called " Father ", normally 
keeps in power during his life. This is one of the characte- 
ristics of the cenobitical life, and cannot be modified without, 
at the same time, striking a blow at one of the essential 
principles of our institution. For the monk, this continuity 

fhe Abbot s power secures to him in a larger measure 
that good of obedience ” which he came to seek in the 
cloister. Moreover this form of government is traced upon 
that which Christ Himself, Eternal Wisdom, has given to 
His Church. ° 


. No one would think of denying that this institution has 
its disadvantages; experience has shown that there have been 
bad Abbots, as, in ecclesiastical history, unworthy popes 
are to be found. But no human system is exempt from 
disadvantages. Against these, moreover, the Church has 
provided its guarantees and remedies in the monastic 
government, by Canonical visitations, General Chapters and 
other stipulations. 

r w°7 f eVer f ^ be ’ the mona rchial and absolute 

ter ° £ i he J U i, hont y of the head of the monastery 
remains . undoubtedly neither the democratic spirit of the 

i. Rom. viii, 29. — 2. Rule, ch. xxxm. — 3. Ibid. ch. xxxi. 


THE CENOBITICAL SOCIETY 


67 

age, nor yet human pride, are in accordance with this, but 
it is still the one most in conformity with the letter and 
spirit of the Rule of the Lawgiver of monks. Where monks 
" sincerely seek God, ” the closest union knits the sons to 
their father, and peace, the fruit of the Spirit of Love, 
reigns in minds and hearts. 

II. 

We have now to see what is to be the kind of activity 
developed in the religious family thus constituted. This 
activity is summed up in two points : prayer and work, 
ora el labor a. 

Our Blessed Father, in founding the cenobitical life, had 
no particular end in view such as the care of the poor, the 
evangelisation of nations, literary studies, scientific labours. 
This it is that radically distinguishes the Monastic Order 
from several later orders and institutes. If we here permit 
ourselves to establish such or such a comparison with other 
forms of religious life, it is not to exalt the one and 
depreciate the other. Certainly nothing is further from our 
mind. Religious orders are the flowers wherewith the Holy 
Spirit has adorned the Church, the Garden of the Spouse. 
Each of them has its particular beauty, its special splendour ; 
each occupies a place in Christ’s Heart and glorifies the 
Heavenly Father by its works. But, according to the 
thought of St. Thomas, in order to grasp the nature of a 
thing, it is useful to comprehend not only what it is but 
also what it is not ; in order to define, it is necessary to 
distinguish. 

All religious leave the goods of this world that they may 
imitate Christ : ■“ Behold we have left all things, and have 
followed Thee " : Ecce nos reliquimus omnia; et seculi sumns 
te 1 . However, the manner of following or imitating Christ 
differs for- religious orders according to the nature of their 
particular vocation. Some are for the evangelisation of the 
poor; others for that of the heathen; here, an institute is 
founded for the education of children ; there, another makes 
preaching its special end. We at once see that this particular 
end, by subordinating all energies and efforts to its influence 
gives the society its direction, its specific character and its 
own modality. 

The monk " seeks God ” in Himself 2 , for Himself; that 
is the adequate goal of all monastic life, that which gives 

I 1. Matth. xix, a 7. — 2. Rule, ch. lviii. 






THE MONK 


it all its value and beauty. The different forms of activity 
of work, zeal or charity do not constitute the goal ot . his 
life, but are at once the consequences and manifestations 
of this seeking after " the one thing necessary 1 , " according 
to the perfection of the Saviour’s counsels. 

The holy Patriarch, in writing his Rule, wished to found 
a supernatural society, a school of perfection in the practice 
of evangelical holiness taken in all its amplitude, a centre 
of the pure Christian spirit. The members of this society 
who have left all worldly possessions in order to follow 
Christ, this Christ to Whom nothing must be preferred : Cut 
nihil praeponendum 2 , strive to attain to union with God by 
the practice, as perfect as possible of the precepts of the Gos- 
pel and the counsels of Christ : Per dticalum Evangelii perga- 
mus itinera ejus 3 . To this society St. Benedict gives an 
organisation modelled upon that which the Word Incarnate 
has chosen for His Church. Now in the works that the 
Christian has to perform, all have not the same importance 
in God’s sight ; those are more pleasing to Him that spring 
most directly from the highest virtues or are most closely 
allied to them, such as the theological virtues and the virtue 
of religion. This is why certain duties relating to the virtue 
of religion are so grave that they are commanded to all 
Christians without distinction, such as assistance at Holy 
Mass, the reception of certain sacraments, prayer, — while 
as for other works the greatest liberty is left to each one ; 
no occupation is imposed in preference to another, no honest 
profession is interdicted, as long as it does not hinder the 
obligations of religion. 

In a " school of Christian perfection 4 , ” we must naturally 
expect to see this principle affirmed and accentuated. In 
the supernatural society founded by St. Benedict, of which 
the aim is to pursue the perfection of evangelical holiness, 
a preponderant place will naturally be given to the practice 
of the virtue of religion. This is one of the reasons why 
the holy Legislator dedicates so many chapters of his Rule 
to organising the Divine Office 5 . This constitutes the work 
of works, that to which " nothing is to be preferred, ” and 
that is to become for the monk, with the lectio divina, labour, 
and what is furthermore ordained by the vows, especially 
that of obedience 8 , the most authentic means of attaining 


i. Cf. Luc. x, 42. —2. Rule, ch. iv and lxxii. — 3, Prologue. — 4. Ibid. 
develoDm™fr°*w cfn th8 f>, hi . 5tori <=ally and critically, the considerable 
come from t\e t ^f*? e ? e ?' ot t P ves .K to l ' le °t ,us Dei in the text o£ his Rule 
unbormlv'consti hffra th ?J' m the 5 ‘ h centur Y> the " Breviary " was not yet 
— 6 eS S:. 11 WaS nec f S8ar T to give a regulation to this monks. 

y, obedience accepted for love is the supreme means. Per 


THE CENOBITICAL SOCIETY 


69 

the end that he proposes to himself : union with God. There- 
fore this work is indispensable in every monasteiy, and other 
works depend on the circumstances of place, time, and 
persons, and can only be undertaken in the measure that 
they do not interfere with the primal character of the Divine 
Office. That is and must remain the chief work excelling 
all others, because it is, according to St. Benedict’s beautiful 
expression, “ the Work of God ” : Opus Dei 1 , the one that 
directly glorifies God, at the same time that it becomes 
for the monk the most natural, important and fruitful source 
of his inmost prayer and assiduous intercourse with our 
Lord. 

III. 


Important as is the Divine Office, it is not, as we have 
seen, and it cannot be the end and aim of the monastic life : 
that aim must necessarily be sought for higher ; neither is 
it the exclusive work nor the chief characteristic of our 
vocation ; we are not Canons and we have not been gathered 
together directly for office in choir. In fact, neither the 
Rule, which wishes the monk to give himself in a very 
notable measure to reading and work, nor tradition authorises 
us to admit that the work of God constitutes a special 
prerogative of our Order 2 . 

To Liturgical and mental prayer, work must necessarily 
be joined : Ora et labora. The whole of monastic tradition 
shows us that when these two means, prayer and work, 
have been most held in honour the most abundant fruits of 
monastic holiness have been brought forth. 

It is clear a priori that work is necessary to the monk 
in order to attain the holiness of his vocation. We must 
not forget indeed that work is an essential part of the homage 
that the reasonable creature owes to God. Fashioned in the 


acctdcns, the monk can sanctify himself without office in choir, it is in nowise 
the same without obedience. . 

1. Rule, ch. xnii, xlvii and lii. — 2. “In short, Canonical prayer is, 
without doubt, the noblest of the elements of the Benedictine life, because 
it refers directly to God ; but, after all, it leaves room for many kinds ot 
activity without being the necessary and indispensable end of all the rest. 
Its chosen place among all the exercises of the monk, corresponds with that 
which it held in the regard and in the daily life of the Primitive Christians . 
The Ideal 0/ the Monastic life found in the Apostolic Age, by D. G. Worm, 
o. S. B., translated from the French by C. Gunning, p. 105. In .tois httle 
volume of great originality, the author has established ho\v the religious me 
is Indeed to the life led by the faithful of the primitive Church such as the 
Acts have brought them down to us as' a lasting example to ChHStians ot au 
time, and as the model of holiness, fortitude and fruitfulness in the tcclesta 
permnis. 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



70 


divine image, man ought to imitate his Creator. Now, God 
is the great Worker : " My Father said Jesus, " worketh 
until now ; and I work ” : Pater metis usque modo operaiur 
et ego operor 1 . Although God finds all happiness in Himself, 
He has willed to rejoice in the works of His hands ; He saw 
that creation was " very good " : valde bona 2 , that it perfectly 
responded to His eternal thoughts : " The Lord shall rejoice 
in His works ” : Laetabitur Dominus in operibus suis s . God 
also delights in the harmonious play of the activity of His 
creatures which glorify Him by acting in conformity to the 
laws of their nature. 

Work is one of the laws of human nature, as we see in 
the book of Genesis. After the narration of the creation 
of the world, it is added that God placed man in a garden 
of delight. What was he to do there ? Pass his life in 
repose and contemplation ? No, to cultivate this garden 
and to keep it: Ut operaretur et custodiret ilium*. Thus 
even before the fall, God wished Adam to work, because 
work allows of the exercise of human powers and energies. 
Only, by innocent man work was done with ease and delight ; 
it was moreover a hymn of praise, a song arising from the 
whole human being towards God. 

After sin entered the world, the Lord renewed to man the 
promulgation of the law of labour ; but this law was hence- 
forth to cost Adam the sweat of his brow : In sudore vultus 


tui 6 . Toil became painful, arduous, thankless; it is, with 
death, the great penance, the supreme mortification inflicted 
on sinful man. Our Blessed Father does not speak explicitly 
in his Rule of the hair shirt and discipline 6 , but he devotes 
several chapters to work ; work is a true penance, and it 
is impossible for one who shirks it to advance in union with 
God. Why indeed did we come to the monastery ? “ To 
seek God. ” And our law is to find God not only in prayer, 
but also in labour. We find Him in the measure in which 
we glorify Him, and we glorify Him by freely putting forth 
our energies in the service of His sovereign will. To seek 
our ea.se and a base well-being in idleness, is to go against 
the Divine Plan, and such behaviour cannot incline God to 
give us His favours. 

Let us contemplate, too, how God acts with His Divine 
Son when this Son is made man. The Father wills that. 


J° aa - v > r 7 - ~ 2- Gen. 1 , 31 . — 3. Ps. cm, 31. — 4. Gen. n, 15. — 5. 
,. 5 ' * 9 * . Special practices of afflictive penance are clearly indicated, 

although not in so many words, in treating of the observance of Lent (ch. 
auiali *, they *^11 suggested, and individual initiative — 

AbU - herCplay3 a popart. Cf. infra 


THE CENOBITICAL SOCIETY 


71 

in imitation of Himself and for our example, Christ Jesus 
shall be a “ workman ; " an artisan ; and Christ accepts 
and carries out this will. Is He not called in the Gospel 
“ the carpenter’s son ” : Fabri filius 1 ? Although He is con- 
scious of His Godhead, of the greatness of the work that 
He comes to do upon earth, He passes thirty years of His 
life in the obscure labour of a poor workshop. His apostolic 
journeys during His public life, what are they but continual 
and indefatigable toil, offered for His Father’s glory and the 
salvation of souls ? 

If it is true that the monk ought to carry out to per- 
fection the programme of Christian life which finds in Christ 
its first and authentic Exemplar, he must necessarily give to 
work an important part of his life. 

The forms and objects of this work are manifold. 

According to the letter of the Rule, the time that the monk 
has to dispose of, outside the time of Divine Office, is devoted 
to manual work or to reading, taken in the wide sense of 
the word, which helps towards “ the seeking after God. ” 
The holy Legislator devotes a whole chapter to manual 
labour 2 ; he allows arts and crafts to be practised in the 
monastery 3 ; but it is only in case of necessity that the monks 
themselves are to gather in the crops *. 

Little by little, in consequence of an evolution which had 
its principle in the Rule itself, and has been accentuated 
since monks were raised to the priestly dignity, intellectual 
work has taken the place of manual labour. 

We cannot consider here the manifold aspects of the work 
accomplished by monachism in the course of ages. What 
it is especially important to establish at this moment, is 
the inner spirit that is to vivify and sanctify all the work 
of the monk. And what is this spirit ? That of obedience. 
The great Patriarch did not intend to found an agricultural 
or industrial concern, nor to institute a university, but a 
school of perfection 6 . And here we do not come to seek the 
satisfaction of self-love, the pleasure of the mind, the joys 
of dilettantism. We come here “ to seek God 6 ;" otherwise 
we might have stayed in the world : we could have done 
there just as well what we do here. 

But we know the most direct path whereby we find God 
in the monastery is that of obedience : Scientes se per hanc 
obedientiae viam ituros ad Deum 7 . St. Benedict accounts as 

x. Matth. xiii, 55. — 2. Rule, ch. xlviii. — 3. Ibid. ch. lvii. — 4. Ibid. ch. 
XLviii. — 5. Prologue. — 6. Rule, ch. lviii. — 7 * Ibid. ch. lxxi. 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



72 

" presumption and vain glory 1 ” the mortifications that the 
monk undertakes without having submitted them to the 
approbation of authority. It is the same for work ; that 
too is to be undertaken and performed with the blessing 
and permission of the Abbot : cum [A bbatis ] fiat orationt 
el voluniatc a . It is obedience that blesses our efforts, and 
assures success as God sees it, because it is obedience that 
brings down upon us and our works light from above, the 
first source of all fruitfulness. " May the brightness of the 
Lord shine upon us, and direct, 0 God, the works of our 
hands ” : Et sit splendor Domini super nos, et opera manuum 
nostrarum dirigc 3 . Such is the prayer which was formerly 
recited at the Chapter immediately before the distribution of 
the day’s work. 

The monk who lives in God’s light knows well that every 
work that obedience does not impose or ordain, approve 
or uphold, is barren for himself and for the Kingdom of 
God : it is in vain that we labour to build up the city of 
souls, unless God, by the way of obedience, helps us by His 
grace and blessing : Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum, in 
vanum laboraverunt qui aedificant earn*. 


One of the characteristics of cenobitical life, as conceived 
and organised by St. Benedict, is " stability ”. 

The great Patriarch wishes the monastery to possess, as 
far as can be, all that is necessary to its subsistence, for 
“ it is by no means expedient for their souls that monks 
should go abroad uselessly ’’ : vagari for as 3 . The world for 
which Christ Jesus declared that He prayed not 6 , has its 
maxims, its morals, its ways of acting which are opposed 
to the Christian and supernatural spirit ; its atmosphere is 
fatal, to the soul that wishes to safeguard the fragrance of 
the life hidden in God : Vita vestra est abscondita cum Christo 
in Deo 7 . It is the cloister that, properly speaking, constitu- 
tes the social and moral sphere of the monk where his soul 
will most naturally unfold in God. Therefore the true 
monk in nowise seeks, even under pretext of zeal, to go 
out of his cloister; he leaves himself on this point to the 
prescriptions of obedience. 

, u nkn° w n before St. Benedict’s time, stability becomes in 
the Rule the object of a vow: the monk is attached until 


i. Cf. Rule, ch. xlix. — 
of Prime. — 4. Ps. cxxvi, 
Col. in, 3. 


Cf. Ibid. . ch. xlix. — 3 . Ps. lxxxix, 17 ; Office 
5- Rule, ch. Lxvr. — 6. Joan, xvii, 9. — 7. 


THE CENOBITICAL SOCIETY 


73 

the end of his life to his abbey and the community of which'-' 
he makes a part. But this vow will only be well pleasing to 
God if we observe the spirit of it by our loving observance 
of the practices of cenobitical life. 

To understand clearly the importance of this point, it is 
needful, to recall a principle which you already know, but 
which is so capital that it is always useful to bring it 
again to light. 

All God’s mercies towards us come from our predestination 
in Jesus Christ. This is one of the most explicit notions of 
St. Paul, of that Apostle who was chosen and formed by 
Christ Himself and caught up to the third heaven. From 
the solitude of his prison, he writes to the Ephesians that 
the aurora of every grace is the eternal election that God 
has made of us in His Word, in His Son : “ Blessed be the God 
and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us 
with spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ ; as He 
chose us in Him " : Benediclus Deus et Pater Domini nostri 
Jesu Christi, qui benedixit nos in omni benediclione spirituali... 
sicut elcgit nos in ipso L By a free movement of love, God 
willed to elect the human race, to choose us to be His chil- 
dren ; but, before all things. He began, if we may thus speak, 
by predestinating the Humanity of His Son Jesus Christ. 

In the Divine thought, Christ Jesus is " the Firstborn of 
every creature ” : Primogenitus omnis creaturae 2 . Therefore 
God showers upon this Human Nature “ all the treasures of 
wisdom and knowledge 3 ; ” so that it is truly " full of grace 
and truth 4 , ’’ the object, consequently, of all the Father’s 
delight. 

But Christ draws and unites to Himself the whole of 
humanity that He comes to redeem and save ; and God, in 
Christ and by Christ, extends His graces and good pleasure 
upon the Mystical Body of Jesus. All which is not in union 
with Christ does not exist, so to speak, for God ; union with 
Christ is the essential condition of our salvation and holiness, 
as it was of our election : it was in Him that we were chosen : 
Elegit nos in ipso. 

Now how do we abide in Christ, in ipso? Through the 
Church. Since the Ascension, the normal regular way of our 
union with Christ, and of safeguarding this union, is to make 
part of the visible organisation that He founded. In the 
same way as the body of Jesus united to His soul was “ the 
instrument of the Divinity ” and the channel of graces, so 
grace reaches us only -if we belong to the body of the Church. 

i. Eph. I, 3-4. — 2. Col. I, 15. — 3. Ibid. 11, 3. — 4. Joan. 1, 14. 


THE CENOBITICAL SOCIETY 


74 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


Baptism which incorporates us to this body is, with faith, 
the first condition of all grace as of all salvation. " All 
power, ” Christ has said, “ is given to Me in heaven and in 
earth.” "Going therefore, teach ye all nations 1 ; he that 
believeth and is baptized, shall be saved 2 .” Such is the law 
established by Christ Himself and ratified by the Father 
Who " hath given all things into His hand 3 . ” “ No man 
cometh to the Father, ” is pleasing to -the Father, receives 
the gifts of the Father, but by Jesus : Nemo venit ad Patrem 
nisi per me*; no man, (I am speaking of the law and of 
the normal way ; we know that in certain cases, the baptism 
of desire suffices and that many of our "separated brethren ” 
live in entire good faith), no man, we say, is united to Christ 
except through the Church, nor receives His doctrine nor 
partakes of His grace except through the Church. This is 
in fact, because Christ is the head of His Mystical Body ; 
the Church is " of His flesh, and of His bones s , ” says St.Paul ; 
now, continues the Apostle, " no man ever hateth his own 
flesh ; but nourisheth and cherisheth it ” that it may come 
to perfection. This is what Jesus does through His vivifying 
Spirit. 

We at once understand that the more we live by the life 
of the Church, through acceptation of her teaching, obedience 
to her precepts and the practice of her worship, the more 
abundant share we have in the blessings that Jesus ceases 
not to pour out upon His Bride. Truth and the light that 
shines from it in the soul are more fruitful in so far as we 
are more closely united to the Church. 

We likewise understand what a terrible penalty it is for 
a soul to be separated from the Church by excommunication 
it is to be separated from the very fount of grace ; like a 
branch cut off from the stem, the nourishing sap no longer 
reaches it ; it is no longer good for anything but to be cast 
into the fire. As the etymology of the word indicates, ex- 
communication cuts the soul off from the communion of 
Saints, from the solidarity of the " blessed of the Father 8 , " 
and from all the graces of light and strength that God sheds 
upon souls in His Son Jesus ; it is like the anticipated shadow 
of final excommunication and supreme malediction : " De- 
part from Me, ye cursed ” : Discedite a me, maledicti 7 . 

Such is, in broad outline, the Divine plan established 
by the Father, Who has predestined us to share, as' children, 
m His infinite beatitude. Every perfect gift which gladdens 


i. Mattb. xxvin, 18-19. 
— 4. Ibid, xiv, 6. 


a , *• iv. — 3. ci. loan, in, 35 ; v 

5. Eph. v, 30. — 6. Matth. xxv, 34. — 7. Ibid. 41. 


75 


our souls comes from Him 1 , through His Son Jesus ; Christ 
unites us to Himself only in His Church, the dispenser of 
her Bridegroom’s graces. In order to partake of these 
graces, we must abide in this visible organisation and live 
by its life. 


The religious Orders and Institutes raised up by the 
Spirit of God, recognised and approved by the Church, and 
associated in an official and canonical manner to the 
Church, possess, on this account, a closer union with the 
Bride of Christ ; their members, having thus become the 
privileged ones of the Church, acquire a new and special title 
to Divine blessings. 

But these singular graces only reach our souls in the same 
measure that we live by the organic life of the Society 
whereof we are members. This is an important truth. In 
the same way that we enter into contact with Jesus through 
the Church on the day of our Baptism, so we enter into the 
current of religious grace on the day of our Profession : 
henceforward we have an effectual part in it, according to 
the degree in which we live the common life. 

What do we ask on the day of our Clothing ? " God’s 

mercy and the companionship of His servants. ” It is the 
one that brings us the other. If we put aside the common 
life, which is the sign of our particular divine election, we 
shall be like wrecks stranded on the riverbank, doubtless still 
lapped by the tide, but no longer lifted up and borne along 1 
on its impetuous living waters. 

You see then of what capital importance it is for the 
religious to live the common life, in the framework of the 
established and accepted 1 organisation ; for the monk, as for 
the Christian, excommunication even in the simply monastic 
sense, such as instituted by St. Benedict, constitutes a terrible 
penalty. 

There are some minds, says the holy Legislator, unable 
to grasp the greatness of this penalty, or the great harm 
that can be wrought in the soul by being excluded from 
the common life by the Superior. The great Patriarch has 
pronounced excommunication for certain transgressions ; but 
do it not let it be supposed that the excommunicated brother 
is therefore placed beyond the encircling fatherly love that 
the Abbot is to have for his monks. Human love, after 
the example of Divine love, does not always exclude severity ; 
it is manifested quite as much by the just application of 

1. Jac. 1, 17. 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


THE CENOBITICAL SOCIETY 


76 

salutary chastisements as by rewards and caresses. That he 
may cure the one confided to him, does not the doctor use, 
when there is occasion, prohibitions, separations, and very 
bitter remedies ? 

It is rarely that the Abbot, to whom alone belongs the 
power of pronouncing excommunication, ought to apply this 
penalty, which moreover admits of degrees. But, unless we 
take care, we can practically excommunicate ourselves. And 
this is equally to be dreaded, perhaps even more so, in 
that a wholesome reaction is less to be hoped for. 

How can this case occur ? By wilful . and habitual 
infidelities ; by our self-will which gradually withdraws us 
from the exercises and usages of the common life. Some 
souls have the tendency of preferring what they do alone to 
what is done by the Community, as such ; they imagine, 
for example, that it would be more useful for them to spend 
the time of recreation in the oratory rather than in the midst 
of their brethren ; this kind of piety is not only false in itself, 
but it is practically sterile, if not worse. How could God 
give Himself to souls who put themselves outside the current 
of grace that He has established ? It is impossible. God 
only communicates Himself to the docile and faithful soul ; 
and such we are when, obedient to legitimate authority, 
we are where this authority wills us to be, and at the hour 
and employment it wills us to be. If God does not find us 
where He looks for us, He will not bless us. " Blessed are 
those servants whom the Lord, when He cometh, shall find 
watching ” : Beati servi illi, quos, cum venerit Dominus.inve- 
nerit vigilantes 1 . 

No outward circumstance, besides, can hinder the Divine 
action and its beneficial effect in the soul. Was it not in 
the middle of the street, as she was returning home one 
evening with her young brother Stefano, that St. Catherine 
of Siena had her first vision, when she saw our Lord, seated 
upon a magnificent throne, smile lovingly upon her and 
trace upon her the sign of the cross ? " And so powerful 
was this blessing of the Eternal God, that transported out 
of herself, the child, who by nature was timid, remained 
standing there, upon the public way, her eyes raised to Hea- 
ven, in the midst of the passing to and fro of men and 
animals 2 . " 

What happens in the case of the saints, comes to pass, 
all proportion guarded, in every faithful soul : Christ Jesus 

1. Luc. xii, 37. 2. Jorgensen, >S* Catherine oj Siena. 


77 

sometimes chooses the moments which, humanly speaking, 
appear the least favorable to calm and recollection, to com- 
municate to us His lights ; — lights which He renders so 
much the more abundant in that the soul is the more attentive 
not to seek self-satisfaction, but to be conformed by obedience 
to the good pleasure from on high ; — lights sometimes 
lavished to such a degree that the impression of the Bride- 
groom’s embrace remains ineffaceable, and the soul is for 
a long time embalmed with the fragrance of the Divine 
visit... 

A monk can excommunicate himself not only by with- 
drawing himself, by unfaithfulness or by mistaken piety, from 
the exercises, customs and traditions of the common life, 
but also by making himself singular. Everything can serve 
as an opportunity for singularity, even things of piety and 
devotion. Some find the best pretexts for justifying 
themselves in their own eyes ; they are persuaded that they 
are showing a wider understanding of what should be done, 
they think they are performing brilliant actions. 

Now, St. Benedict himself , gives us to understand that this 
is often only foolish pride. In fact does it not seem like 
saying : “ I know better than others what ought to be 
done ” : non sum sicut caeteri 1 ? However ordinary, however 
indifferent may appear the common ways and customs, it 
is giving a proof of humility to hold to them and not to do 
anytning to draw attention to oneself : " The eighth degree 
of humility is when a monk does nothing except what is 
commanded by the common Rule of the monastery or by 
the traditions of the seniors 3 . ” 

This point is very important, because grace is hidden in 
the humble observance of common customs and traditions. 
God gives His grace to the humble : Humilibus Hat gratiam 3 , 
whilst pride, the most frequent principle of singularity, 
separates us from God, and renders us, even if we do not 
see it, insupportable to our neighbour. Look at our Divine 
Saviour. What mpre perfect model of holiness can we con- 
template and imitate ? He is God, Eternal Wisdom Incar- 
nate. All that He does is infinitely pleasing to the Father : 
Quae placita sunt ei facio semper 1 ; and that not only because 
He is the Son of God, but because He brings to all His 
actions a Divine perfection. Now, during thirty years, He 
remains in such self-effacement - — ■ just the contrary to sin- 

1. Luo. xvin, 41. — 2. Rule, ch. vn. — 3. I Petr, v, 5 ; Jac. iv, 6. — 4 
Joan, viii, 29. ’ 



78 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

gularity — that when He begins His public life, He is not 
known otherwise than as " the carpenter's son ” : fabri films 1 . 
The sublimity of His teaching, the greatness of His miracles, 
cause astonishment because until then He had not brought 
Himself into notice. And in the acts of His public life, 
what admirable simplicity 1 He possesses all the treasures 
of wisdom 2 . What is our personal wisdom, what is all 
human wisdom in face of His ? Nothingness and foolishness. 

The true monk, whose gaze is ever fixed upon the Divine 
Model, follows with simplicity and uprightness the customs 
common to the Community he has entered and which are 
a sign of the unity that Christ wishes to see reigning among 
the members of His Mystical Body. Here exteriorly 
■written for him, as it were, is the practical programme of the 
perfection he has vowed to seek. If the devil tries to beguile 
us, to make us think that we shall remain more easily united 
to God by living apart, and making ourselves singular, do not 
let us listen to him. If truly, one day, we arrive at the 
height of sanctity which St. Benedict requires for hermits, 
and if God so designs, then a cell shall be built for us in a 
solitary corner, and we shall be surrounded with the vene- 
ration and regard due to so sublime a vocation 1 

In the meanwhile — whether we be simple monks, or 
whether the confidence of the Abbot has invested us with a 
share in his authority — let us keep to the loving obser- 
vance of the common life : it is the path the holy Patriarch 
invites us to follow, it is the path God wills for us. This 
observance will be like the sign of our stability in good, as 
also that of the permanence of God’s grace within us. For 
therein we shall find Christ Jesus ; and the Father, seeing 
us united to His Son in all things, will shower upon us, for 
His sake and through Him, all heavenly blessings : Benedixit 
nos in omni benedictione spiriluali 3 . 

V. 

From the point of view of the cenobitical life, the notion 
of excommunication can take other shades of meaning and 
suggest other lessons. 

It may happen, and this is no less grave, that a monk 
may himself . excommunicate ” his brethren. This may 
be done by failing in charity ; by excluding someone, if not 
from his heart, at least from the radiation of his effective 
love. Again one may “ excommunicate " someone from 

1. Matth, XIII, 55. _ 2. Col. II, 3. — 3. Eph. 1, 3. 


THE CENOBITICAL SOCIETY 


the hearts of others by exciting them to distrust him... This 
is a sin so utterly contrary to the Christian spirit that we 
should especially be on our guard against it and act in this 
matter with the greatest delicacy. 

The cenobitical family is one, the cement that joins together 
its different members is charity. If that is diminished, the 
divine life also tends to be lowered in the social body. What, 
in fact, is the distinctive sign whereby the members of the 
Christian family are infallibly recognised, the sign given by 
Christ Himself ? It is mutual love : In hoc cognoscent omnes 
quia discipuli mei estis, si dilectionem habueritis ad invicem 1 . 
It is the same for the monastic family, and the true mark 
of the protection of Christ Jesus over a religious Community 
is the charity that reigns between its members. Woe to 
those who impair, in whatever manner it may be, this spirit 
of charity. In rending the robe of the Bride, they tear 
from their own soul the Christian sign excelling all others. 

Christ is one ; He tells us that what we do to the least 
of our brethren — of His brethren — of good or evil, we 
do to Himself 2 . St. Benedict reminds the Abbot of this, 
when he enjoins upon him to love all the brethren without 
distinction 3 . He wishes too that we should testify towards 
one another a fervent though chaste love : Caritatem 
fralernitatis casto impendant amore 3 . He wills us to translate 
this love by forgetting ourselves, preferring what seems 
good for others rather than what seems good for ourselves 4 ; 
it is this love, he again says, which will fill the hearts of the 
brethren with the greatest patience so that they may mutually 
endure their infirmities of body or defects of character : 
Infirmitates suas sive corpontm sive monim patienlissime 
lolerent 6 . 

This love will be itself manifested by " obedience one 
towards another, ” in matters where nothing contrary has 
been commanded by the will of the Abbot ; a ready 
submission which can be exercised in many circumstances 
when some slight service is asked of us : Etiam sibi invicem 
obediant fraires Obedientiam sibi certalim impendant 1 . 

And because he wishes this love to be chaste, St. Benedict 
requires it to be accompanied with respect; he recallsSt. Paul’s 
recommandation to simple Christians : “ In honour preferring 
one another ” : Honor e se invicem praeveniant 8 . What is the 
underlying reason for this mutual respect ? It is that eveiy 
soul, in a state of grace, is the temple of the Holy Spirit. 


I. Joan. XIII, 35. — 
ond 5. Ibid. ch. lxxii. 


Matth. xxv, 40 and 45. ■ 
- 6. Ibid. ch. lxxi. — 7 - 


- 3. Rule, ch. lxxii. — 4 
Ibid. ch. lxxii. — 8 . 1 bid. 


8o 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


THE CENOBITICAL SOCIETY 


8l 


We ought to havethat respect for others which strikes us 
in presence of something sacred. It is especially on the part 
of the young towards the seniors that the holy Legislator 
requires this attitude and sense of respect : “ To reverence 
the seniors”: Senior es venerate 1 , in the same way as he 
wishes that love should be shown especially on the part of 
the seniors towards the young brethren \ Junior es diligere a ; 

— but certainly nothing ought to dispense from respect ; 
it preserves from that wrong kind of familiarity which is 
said to breed contempt. 

Respect, obedience, love, such is the three-fold character • 
of the relations which the great Patriarch wishes to see 
reigning between the members of the cenobitical family. 
Happy, thrice happy, the community inspired by these 
dispositions and where the members form but one heart and 
one soul 1 Our Lord will assuredly shed upon it His most s 
abundant blessings for it realises the most ardent longing 
of His Sacred Heart, the supreme wish of His life : " That 
they may be made perfect in one ” : Ut sint consummati in 
unum 3 . . “ The sole means that we have, ” said Venerable 
Bede, “ of showing others that Christ dwells within us, is 
the spirit of holy and individed charity” : Docel cos non 
posse aliter dare experimentum Christi in sc inhabitants nisi 
per spiriinm sanctae ac individuae caritatis 4 . In which this 
great monk was but the faithful echo of Christ Himself : 

“ By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if 
you have love one for another. " 


VI. 


In attaching ourselves to the monastic family, our vow 
of stability binds us likewise to the monastery : therefore 
the monk ought to extend his love to the very walls of his 
cloister. The Abbey is for him the Jerusalem sancta, the 
City of peace where he loves to dwell under the Eye of 
Gog, in obedience to Christ’s representative, in prayer and 
labour. For this Jerusalem, he repeats each day the Psalmist’s 
prayer : Let peace be in thy strength : and abundance in 

thy towers E 1 . For his monastery, the true monk, who has 

a horror of selfishness (that principle of spiritual sterility) 
knows how to forget himself, how to spend himself in hard 
unremitting toil and the most obscure tasks. Feeling that the 
love he bears towards it ennobles the humblest services and 


anon yaio ’ per vet usto, 2 ' 90", ***“' 


fructifies the most thankless labours, he shrinks from 
nothing that can profit the common good of this 
portion of the earth, for him blessed amongst all others. 
His thoughts, his love, his wishes, his prayers, his labours, 
his life, he gives them all even to his last breath : “ Let my 
tongue cleave to my palate, if I do not remember thee ” : 
Adhaereat lingua mea faucibus meis, si non meminero lui 1 l 
In this Jerusalem, the Church is the centre of the monk’s 
love. The abbatial church is truly for him the building 
where all is sacred to God, the cherished dwelling echoing 
with the harmony of his praises and jubilation and proclaim- 
ing to all the fervour of his faith in the one thrice holy 
Lord 2 . There, several times a day, with all the members 
of the cenobitical family, the monk extends his suppliant 
arms, like Moses on the mountain, for the intention of his 
brethren fighting in the plain ; he knows that he can obtain, 
through the ardour and constancy of his prayer, the victory 
for the armies of Israel over the enemies of God and of His 
people. Therefore his gaze, enlightened by faith, reaches 
out to all that touches God’s Kingdom ; his charity stirs 
up the flame of his devotion, it would reach all the souls 
who are struggling in ignorance, error, doubt, misery, tempta- 
tion, suflering, sin ; all who are spending themselves in 
promoting Christ’s reign upon earth ; all those too who are 
filled with the intense desire of being nearer to our Lord. 
To render his intercession more efficacious, he joins his prayer 
to the all powerful and ever-answered prayer of the Divine 
Victim with arms stretched out upon the new Calvary which 
is the high altar... . i- ■ ' 

With what veneration he surrounds this high altar of the 
abbatial church, this stone upon which holy oil was poured 
and sacred incense burnt I This altar has lost nothing of 
that which was solemnly bestowed upon it on the day of 
its consecration ; quite the contrary ! The conventual Mass 
which, day by day, gathers the cenobitical family around it, 
consecrates it more and more. Therefore it ought to be dear 
to the heart of the monk as it is dear to the Heart of God. 
Is not this altar, with the five crosses engraved on its stone 
to represent Christ’s Wounds, the image of “ the Son of His 
love ? ” Is it not here that on the blessed day of our vows, 
we all placed with our own hands the. chart of our 
monastic profession, thus uniting our oblation more closely 
to the Sacrifice of Christ Jesus that it may rise up to God 

PS. exxx, vt. — 2. Omnis ilia Deo sacra — el dilecta civtias plena 
modulis in laude — el canarc rubilo — Tritium Deum umcumque — cum 
jervore praedicat. Hymn for the Dedication of a Church at Lauas, 


82 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



in the odour of sweetness ? Ecce odor filii met sicut odor agri 
pleni, cui bencdixit Dominus 1 . 

In this church where the'very stones breath forth adoration, 
immolation, thanksgiving, supplication, the monk will often 
stay his steps before the image of the great Patriarch to 
learn from him the unique science of Divine things. Was 
not our holy Lawgiver, “ the Man of God ", vir Dei, the great 
Seer who, at every hour of his magnificent life walked before 
God in perfection : Ambttla coram me, et esto perfectus 2 ? Is 
he not the new Abraham, to whom God promised, as a sign 
of supreme blessing, to make his name illustrious by a 
numerous and powerful posterity ? Faciam te in gentem 
magnam, et benedicam tibi, et magnificabo nomen tuum, erisque 
benedictus 3 . 

St. Benedict appears to us holding in his hand the Rule, 
which his profound humility makes him declare to be only 
a sketch or " rough outline 4 . ” But we know with what 
spirit of holiness this immortal code overflows ; we know what 
innumerable cohorts of monks it has sanctified in the course 
of an era of many hundred years ; we know with what power- 
ful help it has served Christ’s Church and what signal fruits 
of Christian civilisation its observance has gained for the 
world. “ Who can measure the extraordinary influence that 
these few pages [of the Rifle] have exercised, during fourteen 
centuries, over the general development of the western world? 
Yet St. Benedict thought only of God and of souls desirous 
to go to God ; in the tranquil simplicity of his faith, he 
purposed only to establish a school of the Lord’s service r 
Dominici schola servitii. But, just because of this single- 
minded pursuit of the one thing necessary, God has blessed 
the Rule of Monks with singular fruitfulness, and St. Benedict 
has taken his place in the line of the great patriarchs 6 . ” 

The holy Rule, indeed, teaches us that, for the monk, 
everything lies m " seeking God ’’ in order to give Him to 
others , in sure characters, for they are all borrowed from 
the Gospel of which it is the pure reflection, it marks out 
the path of most sublime perfection, then it guides us to 
this end by following Christ in the way of obedience, prayer 
an work. It is by the Rule that the monk sanctifies 
himself individually, that socially the Kingdom of Christ 

o/ X s"Bm«i-rf°b 7 a the h Abbot of -I! C^menl^ryonme'RuU ■ 


THE CENOBITICAL SOCIETY 


83 

is built up, and that the Heavenly Father is glorified. By 
it, the great Patriarch continues to live in the Church, for 
it is the Rule that maintains in those who follow it, that 
spirit of sanctification which eminently made of him the 
" Blessed of God. ” 

This is why before the image of the holy Lawgiver, we 
may greatly rejoice and return most humble thanks to God, 
in that we, although unworthy, belong to the holy race that 
forms his magnificent posterity. And we should repeat for 
ourselves, for our brethren, for every soul in the city of God, 
this prayer that the Bride of Jesus places on our lips : " Raise 
up, 0 Lord, in Thy Church the spirit that animated our 
Blessed Father Benedict, Abbot, that being replenished with 
this same spirit, we may strive to love what he loved and 
in our actions to practise what he taught ” : Excita, Domine, 
in Ecclesia tua, spiritum cui Beatus Pater nosier Benedictus 
abbas servivitt, ut eodem nos repleli, studeamus amare quod 
amXivit et opere exercere quod docuit. 


NOTE 5 

(The Rule, which his profound humility makes him declare to be only an 
outline " : Hanc minimam inchoationis regulam, p. 82). 


We must not take these words of the holy Patriarch too literally: Here we 
certainly have an expression of humility, but there is something more. The 
Rule of S x Benedict contains both relatively slight material observances and 
very lofty ascetical directions. In this place, he is only considering the 
first; he draws a comparison between what he regulates in the way of common 
ordinances and what was done by men such as Antony, Macarius, and even 
Pachomius. 


“ From the individual point of view, the Rule embraces not only the phases 
of asceticism denominated the " purgative way ” and “ illuminative way " : 
but furthermore it gives to souls — without expecting too much of human 
strength, — counsels of heroic virtue, and opens out to them - — without, 
seeking to outstrip grace, — the perspectives of the unitive life *\ (D. Festugiere 
k C.\ p. 92). 

We see the holy Lawgiver writing that he in nowise wshes to discourage 
weak souls who climb slowly, but for all that, he does noti intend to hinder 
the holy ascensions of the valiant up the heights of perfection : Ut et stt 
?j <0 ^ infirmi non ref u giant et fortes quod cupiant. We have but to read the 
4 degree of humility to see to what a summit of heroism he invites his 
disciples to rise. 

Moreover the value of the Rule of S* Benedict is sufficiently proved by the 
rapidity with which it supplanted, in a relatively short time, all the Rules 
then in use, althought hese rules were made by personages remarkable for 
their holiness. Again it is proved by the extraordinary supernatural^ fruit- 
tulness whereof it has been the principle in the course of ages. It is only 
necessary to survey the long line of saints who found their perfection in 
the school of him whom S l Gregory the Great calls '* the most excellent 
master of the perfect life " : M agister optimus arclissimac vitae. 

Is there, apart from the Gospel ” — D. Delatte very truly writes in his 
Commentary on the Rule (p. 405) — “ a book which has been able, as it has, to 
adapt itself to all the needs of Christian society from the sixth century to 



84 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

our own day ?... We should recognise for a last time that the Rule has 
km itself with wonderful adaptability to works of extremely various kinds, 
that it has accommodated itself better than any other to times and circumstan- 
ces, and that it has furnished a solid legislative framework to several founders 
of Orders or Congregations. To devise a Rule so wide as to embrace all, so 
strong as' to contain all, so divinely simple as to be understood by the un- 
lettered Goth and to charm S l Gregory the Great, so perfect as to deserve 
for ever the appellation of " the Rule, " the monastic Rule par excellence: 
is not this a work of surpassing supernatural genius ” ? 


II 

STARTING POINT 
AND TWO-FOLD CHARACTER 
OF MONASTIC PERFECTION 




V — OUR FAITH, THE VICTORY OVER 
THE WORLD. 

Haec est victoria quae vincil mundum fides nostra 1 . 


Summary. — I. How by faith we overcome, the world. — II. How 
precious this victory is and of what life .it is the prelude. — 
IH. Faith is also the starting point of our monastic perfection, 
the ' deifying light ” wherewith St. Benedict wishes the whole 
life of a monk to be enlightened. — * IV. The stability 
resulting therefrom for the inner life. — V. Exercise of the 
virtue of faith and the joy of which it is the source. 


I N the preceding conferences, we have tried to view the 
Benedictine ideal and institution taken as a whole. 
" To seek God " only, by following Christ Jesus, such is 
the supreme end of the monastic life ; the monk proposes to 
himself to attain this end in the cloister, in the midst of 
his brethren, living with them under the guidance of the 
abbot who holds the place of Christ, sharing with them a 
life of obedience divided between prayer and labour. 

We are now going to see how one desiring to embrace this 
ideal realises it in practice. We shall see that it is faith 
that makes him cross the threshold of the cloister and love 
that keeps him there by means of the religious profession, 
m the same way as the neophyte, at the moment of being 
received into the Church, performs an act of faith and becomes 
a member of the supernatural society by Baptism, which is 
the Sacrament of adoption and initiation. Faith and the 
religious profession are indispensable in order to enable him 
to cleave to Christ in the state of monastic perfection. 

. Let us call to mind what takes place in the case of the 
simple Christian. 

The example that God proposes to men’s imitation is His 
Son Jesus. Twice — the first time upon the banks of the 
Jordan, and again on Mount Thabor — God breaks the 
eternal silence in order to present to us this same Son, the 
living expression, under human form, of Divine perfection. 

Tlus i s the victory which overcometh the world, our faith, ” i Joan. 

v » 4 * 



SS CHRIST, THE IDEAL OE THE MONK 

And however high may be the summits of holiness which 
souls attain, this perfection is never anything else than the 
reflection of the holiness of the Word Incarnate. 

Now, how do we become one with Christ ? How do we 
participate in his grace and holiness ? First and before all, 
by faith. What, in fact, does St. John say ? Those have 
received Christ who have believed in Him : Quotquot autem 
reccpcrunl mm... his qui credunt in nomine ejtis 1 . This is 
"the work" that God requires first of all from us : That 
we “ believe in Him Whom He hath sent ” : Hoc est opus 
Dei ut crcdalis in eum quem inisit ille 2 . 

Faith is the primary disposition of one who would follow 
Christ ; it must be the first attitude of the soul in presence 
of the Incarnate Word 3 . 

Christianity is nought else than the acceptation, by 
faith — a practical faith — of the Incarnation with all its 
consequences ; the Christian life is but the Constant putting 
into practice of this act of faith made to Jesus. " Thou art 
the Christ, the Son of the Living God 4 ” Without this act 
of faith, which involves all our life, there is no means of being 
a Christian. If you accept the Divinity of Jesus Christ, 
you must, in consequence, accept His will, His words, His 
institutions, the Church, the Sacraments, the reality of His 
Mystical Body. 

What is true of the simple Christian is yet more true of 
the monk. The monk aims at realising in himself the 
perfection of Christianity ; we shall then be monks only if we 
are first of all Christians ; we shall only be perfect monks if 
we are perfect Christians. Now, as I have just been saying, 
it is above all faith in Christ that makes us Christians, 
disciples of Christ, and by His grace, children of God. 

Let us consider what this faith is to us. It is the principle 
of our victory oyer the world — a victory that comes to 
us from Christ through the faith that we have in Him and 
that makes us God’s children. Again it is the foundation 
and the root of monastic perfection as of the Christian life ; 
thence comes what St. Benedict calls " the deifying light " : 
deificum lumen 6 . This having been said, it remains for us 
to explain how we are to live by faith and what fruits this 
Iiie bears for us. 


tant ideas^n’the’ conference' Vaitli'the J V ?- hav ? de 't e , lo t )ed these im P or 
thC Ule «' ~ + 


OUR FAITH, THE VICTORY OVER THE WORLD 89 

I. 

What is faith ? It is the homage that our intellect gives 
without any reservation to the Divine veracity. 

God tells us when showing us His Son co-equal to Himself : 
" Hear ye Him 1 . ” And Christ tells us in His turn that 
He is the Only-begotten Son of God and what He sees of 
the eternal secrets He reveals to us ; that His word is 
infallible, for He is the Truth 2 And when we accept this 
'estimony of Jesus, when we give the assent of our intellect 
to His word, to all that He says, we make an act of faith. 

But this faith must be complete, its object must extend 
to all that Christ Jesus says or does. It is not only in Christ’s 
word that we must believe, but in the divinity of His mission, 
in the infinite value of His merits and of the satisfaction 
He made : faith embraces the whole Christ. 

And when this faith is living, ardent, it casts us at the 
feet of Jesus that we may accomplish His will in all things ; 
it attaches us to Jesus never more to leave Him : this is 
perfect faith which blossoms into hope and love. 

In order to be a Christian it is necessary to have this 
faith in Jesus Christ ; one cannot be a Christian unless one 
prefers Christ’s words, will and commands to his own ideas 
and personal interests. 

Of course the monk has this faith, but with him it goes 
further ; it even makes him leave the world that he may 
attach himself to Christ alone. Why have we left the world ? 
Because we have believed in these words of Jesus : " Come, 
follow Me, and you shall be perfect 3 . ” And we have said 
to our Lord : “ Thou callest me ? Behold here I am. I 
have such faith in Thee and in Thy word ; I am so persuaded 
that Thou art the Way, the Truth and the Life, I am so 
convinced that in Tliee I shall find all, that I wish to cleave 
to Thee alone. Thou art so powerful, that Thou canst make 
me attain even to our Father in Heaven ; so powerful that 
Thou canst, by Thy grace and infinite merits, make me 
like unto Thyself in order that I may be pleasing to Thy 
Father ; so powerful, that Thou canst make me reach the 
highest perfection and supreme beatitude ; and because I 
believe this, because I have confidence in Thee and Thou 
art the infinite Good beyond which all is vain and barren, 
I wish to leave all to follow Thee and serve Thee alone ” : 
Ecce nos reliquimus omnia et' secuti smnus fe 4 . This is a 

x. Matth. xvn, 5. — 2. Cf. Ibid, xi, 27 ; Joan, xiv, 6. — 3. CL Matth. 
xix, 21. — 4. Ibid. 27. 



go CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

pure act of faith in the omnipotence and in the infinite good- 
ness of Jesus Christ. 

Now, this act of faith, says St. John, " is the victory which 
overcometh the world ” : Haec est victoria quae vincit mun- 
dum, fides nostra. And he immediately adds that this 
faith " which overcometh the world ” is that which we 
have in Christ, the Son of the Living God : Quis est qui vincit 
mundum, nisi qui credit quoniam Jesus est Filius Dei 1 ? Let 
us meditate for a few moments on these words for they are 
of a great importance for our souls. 

What is the meaning of Vincere mundum : “ to overcome 
the world ? ” The world does not here mean Christians, 
faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, whose condition obliges 
them to live in the world, but those men for whom the 
natural life alone exists, who confine their desires and 
enjoyments to the life here below. This world has its 
principles, its maxims, its prejudices, all borrowed, according 
to St. John’s words, from " the concupiscence of the flesh 
and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life 2 . ” 
It is this world for which our Divine Saviour says that He 
does not pray 3 . And why does He not pray for it ? Because 
between this world and Christ there is absolute incompa- 
tibility. The world rejects the maxims of the Gospel ; for 
it, the Cross is foolishness and a scandal. 

This world which surrounds us has offered us its riches, 
its honours, its pleasures ; it flatters the natural man, it 
tempts us with its attractions. But in following Christ in 
order to attach ourselves to Him alone, we have rejected 
the world , we have risen above all the natural satisfactions 
that it could offer or promise us, we have been insensible to 
its charms : this is to “ overcome the world. ” 

And what has enabled us to win such a victory ? Faith 
m Jesus Christ. It is because we believe that Jesus is the 
bon of God is God and consequently is very perfection and 
beatitude, that we have joined ourselves to Him. See the 
nch young man in the Gospel who comes to Jesus that he 
may be His disciple. He asks what he must do to obtain 

!Z dStm i ‘ i° Ur Dlvme Savour Who loves him as 
soon as He looks upon him, intuitus eum dilexit eum\ 

“ All t0 r u lm the kee P in g °f the commandments. 

All these thmgs I have observed from my youth 5 , " replies 

the young man. Then our Lord shows him the higher way 
— Vlbii',o.’ 4 ' 5, ~ 2 Ibid - “> l6 '~ 3 - Joan, xv.i, 9 . _ 4 . Marc, x, 21. 


OUR FAITH, TI 1 E VICTORY OVER THE WORLD 


9 1 

of the counsels. " If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou 
hast and give to the poor and thou shalt have treasure in 
heaven. And come, follow Me 1 .” But, says the Gospel, 
the young man having heard these words "went away sad 2 ,” 
and did not follow the Saviour. Why was this ? Because 
he had great possessions : the world held him enchained 
by wealth. And because he did not believe that Christ 
was the Infinite Good, surpassing every other good, this 
young man was unable to overcome the world. 

Christ Jesus gave us this light of faith on the day of our 
vocation ; and it is owing to this light which showed us the 
vanity of the world, the emptiness of its pleasures, the bar- 
renness of its works, and revealed to us the state of perfection 
in the absolute imitation of Christ, that we have " over- 
come the world " : Haec est victoria quae vincit mundum , 
fides nostra. 

Blessed victory which set us free from one of the worst 
states of bondage to give us the full liberty of the children 
of God, in order that we might join ourselves perfectly to 
Him Who alone deserves our love 1 

II. 

What truly makes our victory so precious is that it is in 
itself a signal gift of Jov.e which Christ makes to us : He 
has purchased it with His Blood. Listen to what our Lord 
said to His disciples at the close of His life : “ Have con- 
fidence. I have overcome the world ” : Confidite, ego vici 
mundum 3 . 

And how did He overcome the world ? With gold ? 
With the splendour of exterior actions ? No, in the eyes of 
the world, Christ was only the son of a carpenter of Naza- 
reth : fabri filius 4 . He was humble all His life. He was 
bom in a stable, He dwelt in a workshop ; during His aposto- 
lic journeys, He had not always a shelter, or even anywhere 
to lay His head 6 . The wisdom of the world would have 
scouted the idea that it could be overcome by poverty and 
renunciation. Did He overcome the world by the immediate 
temporal success of His undertakings or by other human 
advantages likely to impress or dominate it ? Again no. 
He was derided and crucified. In the eyes of the “ wise ” 
of that time His mission ended in lamentable failure upon 
the Cross. His disciples are scattered, the crowd wag their 
heads ; the Pharisees laugh Him to scorn : " He saved 

x. Matth. xix, 21. — 2. Ibid. 22. — 3. Joan, xvi, 33. — 4. Matth. xm, 
55 * — 5 - Ibid, viii, 20. 


92 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 




from the Cross, and then — but then only — we will 
believe in Him 1 . ” 


And yet the failure was only apparent; it was precisely 
at this moment that in reality Christ won the victory ; in 
the sight of the world, from the natuial point of view, He 
was overcome ; — but in the sight of God, He was the 
Victor over the prince of darkness and over the world. 
“ Have confidence. I have overcome the world ” : Confidiie, 
ego vici mtmdum. And from that hour Christ Jesus has 
been appointed by His Father King over the nations 2 .. 
“ There is no other name " that is for us a cause of 
salvation and grace 3 , and His enemies are made His 
footstool 4 . 


Jesus gives to His disciples likewise the power of overcom- 
ing the world. But how does He make them share in His 
victory ? By bestowing upon them, through the faith they 
have in Him, the divine adoption that makes them the 
children of God. There is here a profound teaching given 
b y St. John which it is important to bring forward. 

God is Being, Life. God knows and comprehends Himself 
Perfectly > He says to Himself, by an Infinite utterance, all 
that He is : this utterance is the Word. The Word expresses 
the whole of the Divine essence, not only taken in itself, 
but also inasmuch as it is imitable. In the Word, God 
contemplates the exemplar of every creature, even of the 
creature merely possible; in this Word all being has life. 
In the beginning was the Word... and the Word was God... 

.1 !l g V Vere mad , e b y Him - and without Him was nothing 
made that was made : m Him was life ” : In principio erat 

nZJj'T'r etD f us . er . a J Verbum... Sine ipso factum est nihil 
quod j actum est; m ipso vita erat 5 . 

. °" r f mt “ al lde > wh . ich has its first source in the Word, 
comes to us from those immediate agents who are our parents. 
? as y° a know, we are called to a yet higher life, called 

DiTHnpn 6 t God >> °rT - llfe . by becoming “ partakers of the 
Divine nature : Effictamini divtnae consoles naturae °. This 

mfimte beatitude is supereminently the work of 
thl Jw C £ WnS and ' ln a profound sense, explains all 
4 If ° U ^ natural Ilfe comes from God's 1 Hands : 
it is from wfw me tolum in circuilu 7 , 

« B e Sd th T at u f he su P er natural life springs forth! 

Behold, says St. John, what manner of charity the 

Hebr^3;Tx 3 ' 4 -7 loan 6 ' T .v, „ ; Ps. cx, x. - 4 . 

cf . Ps. cxvm, 73. 5 ' J • ’ z ' 4 ' — 6 - 11 Petr, i, 4- — 7- Job. x, j ; 


OUR FAITH, THE VICTORY OVER THE WORLD 


93 

Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called 
and should be the sons of God ” : Vi dele qualcm caritatem 
dedil nobis Pater, ut filii Dei nominemur et simus L This divine 
life does not destroy the natural life in what it has that 
is positive and good, but, surpassing its possibilities, its 
exigences and rights, it raises and transfigures it. 

Now, it is still in the Word that the source of this divine 
life and its outpourings is to be found : God beholds us 
in His Word, not only as simple creatures but also in our 
being of grace. Each of the predestined represents an eternal 
thought of God. " Of His own will hath He begotten ”s 
by the word of truth " : Voluntarte enim genuit nos verbo 
yeritatis 2 ; Christ, the Incarnate Word, is truly the image 
in conformity with which we must be and remain the children 
of God : Praedestinavit [nos] conformes fieri imaginis Filii 
sui 3 ; He is,, as I' have said, the Son of God by nature, we 
by grace; but it is the same Divine life 'that inundates 
Christ’s Humanity and our souls with its fulness. This 
Only-begotten Son, born of God in the holy splendours of 
an eternal and ineffable generation, is the Son of the Living 
God, for He possesses Life in Himself ; He is very Life, 
Ego sum vita*, and He has become incarnate in order to 
make us partakers of this life : Ego veni ut vitam habeant s . 

And how do we participate in this life ? By receiving • 
Christ through faith. “ As many as received Him, He gave 
them power to be made the sons of God, to them that 
believe in His name, who are born... of God ” : Quotquot 
autem receperunt eum, dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri his 
qui credunt in nomine ejus... qui ex Deo nati sunt*. Our 
access to this new life is a veritable birth ; and this birth 
is brought about by faith and Baptism, the Sacrament of 
adoption : Renatus ex aqua et Spiritu Sancto 7 . Thus St. John 
Writes that “ Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ 
is bom of God ” : Qui credit quoniam Jesus est Christus, ex 
Deo natus est 6 . 

As you see in order to be " born of God, ” to be " children 
of God, ” we must believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him. 
Faith is the foundation of this supernatural life which makes 
us share, in an ineffable manner, in the Divine Life ; faith 
introduces us into that supernatural sphere which is hidden 
from the eyes of the world. " Your life is hid with Christ 
in God”: Vita vestra est abscondita cum Christo in Deo 9 . 
The only true life, because it does not end, like the natural 

i. I Joan, in, i. — 2. Jao. i, 18. — 3. Rom. vm, 29. — 4- Joan, xiv, 6. — 

5 . Ibid, x, 10. — 6 . Ibid. 1, 12-13. — 7. Ibid, hi, 3-5. — 8. 1 Joan, v, 1. — 9 - 
COI. HI, 3. ^ . , ! 



94 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

life, in death, but has its fruition in the unalloyed happiness 
of eternity. 

The world sees only, or rather wishes to see and know 
only, the natural life both for the individual and for society 
at large ; it only esteems and admires that which appears, 
which shines and obtains temporal success ; it judges by 
outward appearances, according to the eyes of flesh ; it 
relies only upon human effort, upon the natural virtues : 
that is its way of judging and acting. It neglects, it syste- 
matically ignores the supernatural life, and smiles at the 
idea of a perfection that goes beyond reason alone. Human 
reasoning, in fact, can only produce human results ; purely 
natural effort can only be the cause of effects in the purely 
natural order. " That which is born of the flesh is flesh, " 
says St. John : Quot natum est ex came, caro est 1 ; that which 
is the result of nature, outside the supernatural, “ profiteth 
nothing ” in God’s sight : Caro non prod, est quidquam 2 . A 
man who has not faith, who has not grace, may attain 
by force of energy, of will and perseverance, to a certain 
natural perfection ; he may be good, upright, loyal, just, 
but this is but a natural morality which, furthermore, ever 
remains deficient in some particular. Between it and the 
supernatural life lies an abyss. It is however with this 
natural perfection and this natural life that the world 
contents itself. 

At a single flight, faith rises higher and uplifts the soul 
above all the visible universe, bringing it even to God. This 
i ! ‘ h J ch ™ to be " born of God, ’’ which makes 

n l C r h l , d : en °* , God ' through Christ, makes us also conquerors 
ln hk h rr^;=f/ d '. I s the w ? n derful doctrine of St. John 

the world " " w ) Vh ? ts ° ev ® r ls born of God overcometh 
he that h'eiiV tlat ove rcometh the world, but 

!l:J , beheV , eth t hat J esus 1S the Son of God ’’ ? Omne 
^ **■ De ° mndt mundum... Quis est qui vincil 
mundum, nisi qui credit quoniam Jesus est Films Dei 3 ? 

III. 

SKssssaasagf “ d * 

ut, for the monk, how much more complete are this 
severance and this transformation ! P are tUl ” 

i. Joan, nr, 6. _ 2 . Ibid, vr, 64.-3 I Ibid, v, 4.5. 


OUR FAITH, THE VICTORY OVER THE WORLD 


95 

The divine life that we received at Baptism with grace 
is the germ of all our monastic sanctification, as it is of 
the simple Christian life. Our perfection is not of an essen- 
tially different order from that of Christian perfection ; both 
intrinsically belong to the same supernatural order. Reli- 
gious perfection is but the development, in a given form 
and state, of our divine adoption. A simple Christian is a 
child of God ; a monk is likewise a child of God, but one 
who seeks, in the largest possible degree and by especially 
adapted means, to develop this condition of a child of God. 
The Christian is allowed, without essential detriment to his 
state as child of God, the lawful use of certain creatures ; 
the monk chooses to adhere to God alone, and his chief 
work is to put away from him or destroy all such created 
things as are opposed to the perfect expansion of the divine 
life in him. But for the religious as for the simple Christian, 
faith in Jesus Christ is the door whereby he enters into this 
divine life : it is as the Council of Trent says, " the foundation 
and root of all justification 1 . ”, 

Faith is a foundation. Think of an edifice which attracts 
attention by its grandeur and the harmony of its proportions. 
What is it that gives it solidity ? The foundations. If 
these are shaken, at once the walls crack and the building 
is in danger ; unless it be consolidated, it is doomed to ruin. 
This is an image of the spiritual life. It is an edifice which 
God, together with us, constructs in us, to His glory ; it 
is a temple wherein He would dwell. But if we do not lay 
a firm foundation, it is impossible to build the edifice. And 
the higher it is to be raised, the deeper and firmer must 
be the foundation. When a spiritual man thinks to -arrive 
at the summit of perfection, at the height of . contemplation, 
without his faith, which is the basis of real love, being strong 
in proportion, all must come to ruin. 

The Holy Council again compares faith to a root. Look 
at a majestic tree, with mighty trunk, vigorous branches, 
and abundant foliage. Whence comes to it this strength 
and beauty ? From something unseen : the roots. These 
are plunged in the soil there to take a firm hold and draw 
the nourishing sap necessary to the life of this giant. Should 
the roots dry up, the tree will decay. 

The root of the Christian life is faith. Without faith all 
withers away, dries up and perishes. It is the necessary 
condition of all life and all spiritual progress. 

If faith be the basis of all Christian life, it is likewise upon 

1. Sess. vi, cap. 8, 



g6 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

faith that the whole monastic life rests ; it is faith that 
explains and maintains it. The monastic life, like the 
Christian life, is the practical consequence of an act of 
faith. Why are we Christians ? Because we have said' to 
Jesus Christ : “ Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living 
God ; Thou art He Who alone canst bring us to the Father, 
to eternal life. ” Why have we become monks ? Because 
we have said to Jesus Christ : “ Thou art the Christ ; Thou 
art the Way that alone leads to the Father ; Thou art the 
Fountainhead of all life, of all good, of all perfection, of all 
beatitude. ” And this initial act of faith explains the 
whole of our conduct. 

Without faith in Jesus Christ, the life that we lead has 
no meaning ; the world indeed takes us for fools : Vitam 
illorum aeslimabamus insaniam 1 . But the terrestrial man, 
the sensual man ” as St. Paul calls him, “ perceiveth not 
those things that are of the Spirit of God ; " they are foolish- 
ness for him, and he cannot know them, because it is by the 
Spirit of God, and not by the spirit of the world, that they 
are discerned 2 . 

In the eyes of faith, our life constitutes that “ better part ”, 
optimum partem 3 , that Christ reserves to those upon whom 
He has cast His look of special love : Intuitus eum dilexit 
enm\; already it is for us the assured pledge of a " goodly 
inheritance : her edit as fraeclara 6 . 

And what is true of our -life taken as a whole, . remains 
true of the detail of our days. 

Regarded from the natural point of view, from the world’s 
pomt of view the thousand details of our life of prayer, 
of obedience, humility, abnegation and labour, may appear 
v,- 1 J la £ r °i W J a I ld ^significant. When a man who allows 
himself to be led by the spirit of the world sees us chanting 
e psalms in choir and learns that we spend so many hours 
m praising God, he shrugs his shoulders : " What a pity 
° np f„ ? en 7 as ^ c their time like that I ” It is because he 
, d “. . ot . U f de I 3ta " d and cannot understand, because he is 
fai ? : re . ason is to ° hunted to allow him to 

kS ^ h °. nzons i he has not the light of faith 

Snnn7 en n t0 enter int0 God ’ s secrets ; he 

f tha ^ our hfe of prayer is a life most 
an , d most Profitable for souls. 

tL lth al i the f elements of our monastic life. Faith 
shows us their value for eternity ; faith places us above the 

5. Ps. xv, V (5. 4 ' 2 ‘ * C° r ’ I ' 1 ' 3 hue. x, 42. — 4. Marc, x, 21. — 


OUR FAITH, THE VICTORY OVER THE WORLD 97 

judgments of the world, the wisdom of the world which, 
according to St. Paul, is “foolishness with God 1 . ” “We 
have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that 
is of God : that we may know the things that are given 
us from God. ” For “ the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, 
the deep things of God 2 . ” 

And because we adhere to this Spirit by faith, faith 
becomes, as our Blessed Father so well calls it, the “ deifying 
light ” that illumines and uplifts our whole life : deificum 
lumen 3 . 

Faith is, in fact, for us the true divine light. To the 
natural life, God gives the light of reason : the intellect is 
the faculty that directs the specifically human activity. To 
the supernatural life God also gives an appropriate light. 
What is this light ? In Heaven, where the supernatural 
life attains its perfection, it is the radiant light of glory, 
the visual power of the Beatific Vision. " In Thy light we 
shall see light " : In luminc two videbimus lumen i . Here 
below it is the veiled light of faith. The soul that would 
live the true life must be guided by this light which makes 
it a partaker of the knowledge that God has of Himself and 
of all things. 

In this Christ Jesus is as ever our perfect Example, and 
the Ideal we are predestined to reproduce. The motive 
power of Christ’s activity was the light that shone for His 
Blessed Soul in the Beatific Vision. As you know, from the 
first instant of Its creation, the Soul of Jesus contemplated 
God, and from this Vision arose the light wherein It regarded 
all things and that directed It in all its ways. Jesus says that 
He reveals to us that which He sees ; He tells us only that 
which He hears 5 , He does nothing but what He sees the 
Father doing : Non potest Filius a se facere quidquam, nisi 
quod viderit Patrem facientcm 6 ; "Nothing of Himself, nothing 
for Himself ; He only does that which the Father reveals 
to Him, and all that the Father does, He also does, but yet 
He does it in a like manner, with the same dignity and the 
same perfection, because He is the Sole-begotten Son, God 
of God, perfect God of perfect God 7 . ” 

For us upon earth, the light of faith preludes the power 
of the Beatific Vision. Tne child of God knows God and 
beholds all things in this light 8 . God, first of all : for if no 
one here below has ever seen God Who “ inhabiteth light 

1. I Cor. hi, 19. — 2. Ibid, n, 10-12. — 3. Prologue of the Rule. — 4.P3. 
xxxv, io. — 5, Joan, in, u. — 6. Ibid, v, 19. — 7. Bossuet, II nutations 
on the Holy Gospel. — 8. Joan. 1, 18. 



9 8 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


inaccessible \ ” God has, however, revealed Himself to us 
through His Son Jesus : Illuxit in cordibus noslris... in facie 
Christijesu 2 . The Only-begotten Son Who is ever in " the 
bosom of the Father”, in sinu Patris 3 , manifests God to 
us : " He that seeth Me, seeth the Father also ” : Qui videt 
Me, videt ct Patrem 4 . In accepting the testimony of the 
Son, the Word, the soul knows the secrets of the Divine 
life. In this celestial light, the soul likewise judges all 
things as God sees, considers and estimates them. It regards 
creation with the same eyes as do those who have not the 
faith ; but the universe reveals to this soul what is not dis- 
closed to others : to wit, that it is the reflection of the ' 
perfections of its Author. In the ceremonies of the Church, 
the believing soul does not see only the exterior side of 
actions and symbols, that outward aspect which all eyes 
may behold, but it penetrates to the depths of the rites, 
therein to recognize God’s ideal, the intentions of the Church, 
the hidden mystery of the worship, the realisation of the 
Divine thought, the perfections of God made manifest, the 
fl| or y °* God procured; and with the incense of the sanctuary, 
the hymn 0 f the loving and grateful heart rises up to God. 
In like manner, under ordinary and commonplace appearan- 
ces, under the unexpected, painful or enigmatical aspect of 
daily events, the child of God discerns the work full of love 
. ,¥ e and maternal Providence pursues, 
hen this life of faith is intense, it leads to the highest 
perfection, just as we have seen that the Sacred Humanity 
,, Je sus derived its principle of perfection and activity from 
Wi?r! lfiC Y 1S ‘T Doubtless, the soul that lives by faith 
if pvort ^f rd J y ^ le ordinar y existence of the rest of mankind; 

^uman activity like other souls, but it exerts 
the Trnfh lty fu in h, g he r light of Divine truth. Christ is 
the Light : he who lives in truth is a child of 

in thofi fr ? e llves in this truth - bis life abounds 

Lnd iust re 1 'Sht which are, says St. Paul, “goodness 

bonitate flyr t ™ th . : Frucll ‘s enim lucis est in omni 
connate et lustiha el veritale «. 

us that^we^QR 11 m surprised that St. Benedict requires of 
faith > Tt mn f k be g , Uided in aU things by the light of 
Patriarch alwavc b f und J rstood once for all that the holy 
natural pronnrk ^ij 063 .t ? e mon k from the outset on super- 

die our^eaze W J le » j S to llave " eac b da Y quoti- 

' gaZe fixed on the deifying light’, ” that we may 


\ {Jim. vi, 16. — 2 . 
5 Ibid, xii, 36, — 6. 


II Cor. iv, 6. — 
Eph. v, 9. — 7. 


■ 3 . Joan. 1, 18. — 4. Ibid, xiv, 9. 
Prologue of the Rule. 


OUR FAITH, THE VICTORY OVER THE WORLD 


99 

constantly receive its rays ; he would have his disciples’ whole 
conduct based on faith. 

On the strength of these words, we will consider some pas- 
sages taken from the Holy Rule. Why must the monk obey 
his abbot ? Simply because the abbot " holds the place of 
Christ ” : A bbas Christi agere vices creditur 1 . Why must the 
monks remain perfectly united to one another ? Because 
“ all are one in Christ 2 . ” Why must guests, at whatever 
hour they arrive — and in St. Benedict’s time they were 
very numerous, nunquam desunt 3 , and arrived at unlooked 
for hours — be received with eagerness and joy ? Because 
it is Christ Who is received in them, because it is before 
Christ that we prostrate when we bow down before them : 
christus in hospitibus adoretur qui et suscipitur... omnes 
supervenientes hospites tamquam christus suscipiantur*. 
Again why must the poor and strangers be more especially 
cared for ? - Because it is above all in these disinherited 
members that Christ presents Himself to our faith : Paupentm 
et peregrinorum maxima susceptionum cura sollicite exhibealur : 
quia in ipsis magis christus suscipitur B . And it is to be 
the same as regards the care given to the sick in the 
monastery. St. Benedict most urgently recommends that 
the sick are to lack nothing of the succour that their 
infirmity requires. This point appears astonishing since the 
monastic state is one of abnegation. And yet St. Benedict 
is very precise on this point : " Before all things and above 
all things, care is to be taken of the sick ” : Infmnorum 
cura ante omnia et super omnia adhibetida est 3 . Why such 
insistence ? Because here again faith sees Christ in His 
suffering members : " They are to be served as if they were 
Christ in person, for He hath said: ‘I was sick and ye 
visited Me ’ " : Ul sicut revera Christo, ita eis serviatur, quia 
ipse dixit : In firmus Jui et visitastis me’’. 

This faith, this supernatural point of view, is extended 
by the great Patriarch from persons to the actions of the 
life of the monk : whether the monk be in choir, or serve at 
table, or set out on a journey, everywhere St. Benedict 
would have him bathed in this light of faith. If the great 
Legislator carefully enumerates the natural qualities to be 
desired in the principal officials, he requires before all things 
that they should have hearts “ fearing God 8 ; ” he requires 
of the master of novices that h? should especially be 
skilled in gaining souls °. ” 

1. Rule, ch. II, lxiii. — 3 . Ibid. 11 ; cf. Gal. in, 35. — 3-4- Ibid. ch. liii. 
— 5- Ibid. ch. liii. — 6 . Ibid. ch. xxxvi. — 7 . Ibid. ch. xxxvi ; cf. Matth. 
xxv, 36 . — 8. Ibid. ch. xxxi ; liii. — 9. Ibid. ch. lviii. 



100 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

He envelops even the material things of the monastery 
with this light of faith. Because the monastery is " the house 
of God ”, domus Dei 1 , he would have us “ look upon the 
vessels and goods of the monastery as if they were the 
consecrated vessels of the altar ’’ : Omnia vasa monasterii 
cunciamque substanliain, ac si altaris vasa sacrata conspiciat 2 . 
The world will find such a recommendation very trifling, 
very simple and useless, but the holy Legislator judged quite 
otherwise. And this was because his faith was strong, and 
he understood that all things are only of any value in God’s 
sight according to the measure of our faith 3 . 

IV. 

Such then is the supernatural atmosphere wherein St. Be- 
nedict wishes the monk to live and breathe continually, 
quotidie ; he wishes him, as St. Paul wishes the Christian, to 
" l' ve by faith ” ’. Justus ex fide vivit 4 . The just man, (that 
is to say one who in Baptism has put on the new man created 
in justice) lives, in so far as he is just, by faith, by the light 
that the Sacrament of illumination brings to him. The more 
he lives by faith, the more he realises in himself the perfection 
of his divine adoption. Notice this expression carefully : 
EX The exact meaning of this is that faith ought 

to be the root of all our actions, of all our life. There are 
souls who live “ with ” the faith : cum fide. They have 
raith, and one cannot deny that they practise it ; but it is 
?? 7 °?, certaa T n p ccas i° ns , for example, in exercises of piety. 
Holy Mass, Holy Communion, the Divine Office, that they 
remember their faith to any purpose ; it is impossible that 
taitn should not come into play in these actions because, of 
their nature, these actions relate directly to God and, 
proper y speaking, concern the supernatural economy. 

. u 0I \ e would say that these souls restrict themselves to 

is , an that as soon as they leave these exercises, they 
enter mto another sphere, and return to a merely natural 
• obedience then commands them something irksome 
nL? 00 ^ 61116 ?!’ they murmur 1 if a brother-monk is in 
««™HkuT ethl ? g ' ! hey pay no attention to it ; are their 
susceptibdihes touched, they are irritated.' At these 
moments the outlook of their souls is not enlightened by 

the' Spirit o/* laith'iOP 3 '. "Faith, or rattier what we would call 

thousand wtvs spiri \ is “an^sted in the Rule in a 

are paradoxical and - v . n aS i tou ni""S and edifying for the believer as they 
/^Ihfof thrGosDd * aUe ^ b e ,[ n the eyes of the world : the rnihi 

The Catholic Liturgy. — 4. Heb£"x supreme dc 'K rcc - “ D. M. Festugiirej 


101 


OUR FAITH, THE VICTORY OVER THE WORLD 

faith. They do not live by faith ; theoretically, doubtless, 
they know that the Abbot represents Christ, that Christ is 
in each of their brethren, that we ought to forget ourselves 
in order to imitate Christ in His obedience. But, practically, 
these truths do not exist for them ; these truths have no 
influence on their life ; their activity does not spring from 
their faith ; they make use of faith under certain circum- 
stances, but, these circumstances having passed, they bid 
farewell, as it were, to their faith. • Then it is the natural 
life that is uppermost, the natural spirit that becomes 
master. Certainly this is not to live by faith : ex fidevivere. 

Now, such a life, so devoid of homogeneity, cannot be 
firm or stable ; it is at the mercy of impressions, of every 
sally of temperament or mood, of the chances of health or 
temptation ; it is a spiritual life that fluctuates and is 
tossed about by every wind that blows. It changes day by 
day, at the will of the capricious rudder that serves it as 
guide. 

But when faith is living, strong, ardent, when we live by 
faith, that is to say when in everything we are actuated 
by the principles of faith, when faith is the root of all our 
actions, the inward principle of all our activity, then we 
become strong and steadfast in spite of difficulties within 
and without, in spite of obscurities, contradictions and 
temptations. Why so ? Because, by faith, we judge, we 
estimate all things as God sees and estimates them : we 
participate in the Divine immutability and stability. 

Is not this what our Lord has said ? “ Everyone therefore 

that heareth these My words and doth them ” — that is 
to live by faith — " shall be likened to a wise man that 
built his house upon a rock. And the rain fell and the 
floods came and the winds blew, and they beat upon this 
house. And it fell not. ’’ For Jesus Christ immediately 
adds, “ it was founded on a rock x . ” 

This is truly what we experience when our faith is deep 
and intense. Faith causes us to live the supernatural life ; 
by it we are of God’s family, we belong to that house of 
God, whereof Christ, as St. Paul says, is “ the chief coiner 
stone Ipso summo angulari lapide Christo Jestt 2 . By 
faith, we adhere to Christ, and the edifice of our spiritual 
life becomes thereby firm and stable. Christ makes us share 
in the stability of the divine rock against which even hell’s 
fury cannot prevail : Portae inferi non praevalebunt 3 . Thus 
divinely sustained, we are conquerors over the assaults and 

i. Matth. vn, 25. — 2. Eph. II, 20. — 3 - Matth. xvi, 15. 






temptations of the world and of the devil, the prince of 
this world : Haec cst victoria quae vincil tnundum, fidcs nostra 1 . 
The devil, and the world which the devil uses as an accom- 
plice, offer violence to us or solicit us ; by faith in the word 
of Jesus we come out victorious from these attacks. 

You will have remarked that the devil always insinuates 
the contrary to what God affirms. Look at the sad expe- 
rience that our first parents made of this. " In what day 
soever thou shalt eat of [the forbidden fruit], thou shalt 
die the death 2 ; ” such is the Divine word. The devil im- 
pudently declares the contrary : “ You shall not die the 
death ” : Nequaquam morle moriemini 3 . When we lend an 
ear to the devil, we put our trust in him, we have faith in , 
him, and not in God. Now, the devil is " the father of lies 
and the prince of darkness 4 , " while God is " the Truth 6 ” 
and “ in Him is no darkness 6 . ’’ If we always listen to God 
we shall always be victorious. When our Lord was tempted’ 
He repulsed temptation by placing the authority of God’s 
Word m opposition to each solicitation of the Evil One. 
We ought to do the same and repulse hell's attacks by 
faith in Jesus word. The devil says to us : “ How can 
Christ be present under the species of bread and wine ? ” 
Answer him : The Lord has said This is My Body, this 
^ * s tke Truth, that is enough for me. " 

. ® devd tell . s us not to let an injury or an affront pass 
without retorting. Answer him : “ Christ has said that all 
we do to the least of His brethren, we do to Himself 8 , 
therefore any feeling of coldness voluntarily shown to our 
brethren or entertained towards them is shown to Jesus in 
person. J 

f I s true of the devil is true of the world : it is by 

aith that we overcome it. When a man has a living faith 

“Sv, 'f fear f n ? lther difficulties nor opposition, nor the 
S bGC \ U3e he k ™ws that Christ abides in 
and because he relies on Him. Our Lord explicitly 
f aSS T n “ S 1° St ' Catherine when He gave her 
X K d W1 u C f , or , the g° od of His Church, especially 

to Romo Ti r o n ? back the Sovereign Pontiff from Avignon 
a rnk^n ;J f u e Salnt ’ ln r her weakness and humility, feared 
2 l he f C ° arS - e ° f which she foresa w insurmountable 

armed S ^ c Said to her : " Because thou art 
over all adv taith, thou wilt triumph happily 

over all adversaries 6 .” Again, later on, in her Dialogue, 


Joarjxiv, 6. — 6. fbid*?' ~ 4- ■ Cf. Eph. vi, 12. — 5. 

— 9. Lije by Bl. Raymund.' 5 ‘ 7 ‘ Matth - XXVI > 26-28. — 8. Ibid, xxv, 40. 


OUR FAITH, THE VICTORY OVER THE WORLD I03 

Catherine speaks of faith with holy enthusiasm : " In the 
light of faith ” she says addressing the Eternal Father, " I 
gain that wisdom which is found in the wisdom of the Word, 
Thy Son ; in the light of faith, I become stronger, more con- 
stant, more persevering. In the light of faith, I find the 
hope that Thou wilt not let me faint upon my way. It is 
also this light which shows me the path along which I must 
journey. Without this light, I should walk in darkness, 
and, therefore, I beseech Thee, Eternal Father, to enlighten 
me with the light of most holy faith K ” 

‘ V. 

Let us, too, beseech the Father and Christ Jesus, His 
Word, to grant ns this light of faith. We have received 
the principle of it in Baptism ; but we ought to guard and 
develop this divine germ. What is the co-operation that 
God expects of us in this matter ? 

He first of all expects us to pray. Faith is a gift of God ; 
the spirit of faith comes from the Spirit of God : ” Lord, 
increase our faith " : Adauge nobis fidem 2 . Let us often say 
to Christ Jesus, like the father of the dumb boy in the Gos- 
pel : " I do believe, Lord, help my unbelief ” : Adjuva incre- 
dulitatem meam 3 . It is truly God alone Who can, as the 
Efficient Cause, increase faith within us ; our part is to 
merit this increase by our prayers and good works. 

This is to say that having obtained faith, it is our duty to 
exercise it. At Baptism, God gives us the habitus of faith ; 
it is a " force, ” a “ power ; " but this force must not remain 
inactive, this " habit ” must not become ankylosed, so to 
speak, from want of exercise. This habitus ought to go on 
getting ever stronger by corresponding acts. We must not 
be of those souls in whom faith slumbers. Let us often renew 
our acts of faith, not only during our exercises of devotion, 
but furthermore, as the great Patriarch wishes, in the least 
details of our life. It is “ every day ”, quotidie, that we must, 
in accordance with his counsels, walk in this light 

And you will remark that with St. Benedict, faith is always 
1 practical ; he never separates it from deeds ; he wishes us 
“ to have our loins girded with faith, and the performance 
of good works ” : Succinciis fide vel observantia bonorum 
actuum lumbis nostris 4 / he promises us joy and blessedness 
only on condition that we " go forward in good works and 

i. Life by Bl. Raymund. — 2. Luc. xvn, 5. — 3' Mure, ix, 23. — 4- Prologue 
of the Rule. 



104 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

in faith”: Processu veto convey sationis et fidei 1 . Let us 
regard all things from the point of view of faith, the super- 
natural point of view, which is the only true one ; let all our 
actions be in accordance with our faith, let us do everything 
in its light. Under these conditions it can be said that 
faith is manifested by love : it becomes logically anp 
practically perfect, because it is through love that the. sold 
devotes itself to works of faith. 


Thus spiritually armed, we shall avoid routine which is 
one of the great dangers of the regular life. The intensity 
of our faith should animate our least actions. If we apply 
ourselves to this, our life will be full of light and joy. The 
tiniest details of the day will appear to us as precious pearls 
which we want to gain, that with them we may compose 
our heavenly treasure. And in the measure that we advance 
in faith, in the measure that it becomes firmer, more ardent 
more active, joy will more and more superabound in our 
souls. Light is added to light, hope, beholding its horizons 
widening, is strengthened day by day ; love, feeling itself 
more ardent, makes everything easy ; and we run in the 
path of the Lord s commandments. The great Patriarch 
himself assures us of this, and, without any doubt, he speaks 
rom experience. Listen to what he says at the end of the 
Prologue, after having determined the end and shown the 
way : j. n the measure that we go forward in the observance 
ot the Precepts which is the putting into practice of our faith, 
it is with hearts enlarged that we shall run the way of per- 
fection with unspeakable sweetness of love ’’ : Processu vero 
corner sationis et fidei, dilatato corde, inenarrabili dilectionis 
aulceaine curntur via mandatorum Dei. St. Benedict does 
not say it will sometimes happen that the monk will find joy ; 

inv P t0 a J“ S sons that their hearts will dilate with 

J" ™ aven ttf. source of our joy will be the certain, 
pnnd fn th, f ' ^i ?S £. e P°f ession of sovereign and immutable 
fov k thp n fuU hght °, f gl( °jy ’ here below, the source of our 
unLn a ready begun, of God, the anticipated 

more intimnt°+h ^ ls P ossess ion, this union is so much the 

The Wthl e t f th ° more v / e are bathed in the light of faith. 

sn.,U .uSber. » 

I. Prologue of the Rule. 


OUR FAITH, THE VICTORY OVER THE WORLD I05 

Christ ! Ecce nos reliquimus omnia et secuti sumus fsA. We 
cannot go begging happiness from creatures. We ' must 
expect everything from Christ What is it then that we 
expect ? Quid ergo erit nobis 2 .? Christ Himself promises us 
the hundredfold even here below. Now, joy makes part of 
this hundredfold, and it is faith above all that maintains joy. 

Faith in fact shows us the grandeur and beauty of this 
supernatural life to which God has called us : " It is I, I 
Myself, Who will be thy Reward exceeding great Ego 
merces tua magna minis 3 ; it shows us the height and sublimity 
of our monastic vocation which causes us to live in Christ's 
intimacy, since as St. Benedict says, it is our love for Christ, 
that has made us prefer Him to all things 4 . 

Faith is yet again the fount of joy because it is the fount 
of truth and hope ; it is the supreme testimony of promised 
good, it already puts us in anticipated possession of the good 
things to come : Sperandarum substantia rerum 5 . Supersen- 
sible realities, the only realities that eternally remain, are 
made tangible to us by faith. 

Let us then live the life of faith as intensely as we can 
with Christ’s grace : let our whole existence be, as our great 
Patriarch would have it to be, deeply impregnated, even in 
the least details, with the spirit of faith, the supernatural 
spirit. Then temptation will be unable to take any hold on 
us, for our house will be built upon the rock of God’s stability; 
we shall be victorious over the assaults of the devil and the 
world. 

Thus delivered from our enemies, we shall live in the 
light of the spirit and in joy of heart. When Our Lord 
revealed to His disciples, at the Last Supper, the divine 
secrets that He alone possessed, what were the intimate 
meaning and end of these ineffable revelations of God’s love 
for His children ? They were to fill our hearts with joy, 
to pour into them His own divine joy: “These things I 
have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and your 
joy may be filled ” : Haec loculus vobis ut gaudium meum 
in vobis sit, et gaudium oestrum impleatur 6 . 

i. Matth. xix, 27. — 2. Ibid. — 3. Gen. xv, I. — 4. Rule, cb. iv, v and 
lxxii. — 5. Hcbr. xi, 1. — 6. Joan, xv, 11. 


MONASTIC PROFESSION 


VI. — MONASTIC PROFESSION. 


Summary. — The necessity, in order to be a monk, of being incorpo- 
rated in the monastic society by religious profession. — I. 
Monastic profession constitutes an immolation of which Christ’s" 
oblation is the model. — II. Character of a holocaust attached 
to religious profession. — III. To unite this act to the oblation 
which Christ made of Himself. — IV. Blessings bestowed by 
God upon those who make the vows of religion. — V Ne- 
cessity of remaining constantly faithful to our Vows. 


Tn order to draw the Christian life at its authentic source 
| an “ be Christ s disciple, it is necessary to belong not 
only to the soul but likewise to the body of the Church, 
c ll ne ^ Sa ? r tc L}^ c ° me a member of the visible organism 
t f UI jkj This incorporation is made by the profession 
of faith and the reception of Baptism, the Sacrament of 
Christian initiation ; it is maintained by participation in 
the other Sacraments the rites of religion and by obedience 
to the authorities ordained by Christ. 

The same analogy holds good as regards the monastic life. 
. ., e t r “,y a monk, is it sufficient to live according to the 
spirit of the great Patriarch ? No, it is further necessary 
wr T ei Y e . d and . incorporated in the monastic society. 

II \° r !u el ?u he h ,° ly Habit ' the Postulant asks to 

be admitted to the fellowship of God’s servants : Vestram 
confraternitalem 1 . His incorporation takes place on the day 
of his profession. Faith brought him to the threshold of 
a t tn rh 01 r 6r * }° V L ex P resse ? h 7 a solemn engagement will 
his Profession° ^ monas * ;lc • ^bat will be the work of 

fh Jp e , ^ F ?. fessi °n is t0 the monastic life what Baptism is to 
lS ^ lan de ■’ cer t ai nly it is not a sacrament but its 
wt q ™ enC £ S a 5 6 m S , 0me manner comparable with those of 
senk p , laces the neophyte in God’s family and 

emiLw? 7 the charac ter of Christian ; the Profession or 
f vow ? P laces ‘the novice in the monastic family 

Derfecf h f m r ^°. God s service that he may become a 
perfect disciple of Christ Jesus 2 . J 

Monastic ^rofess^on^^d^h’rWian'n 16 Jl ume ™ us analogies existing between 


107 

Let us then analyse the meaning of the monastic pro- 
fession ; we shall see that it is an immolation of our whole 
being which, made with love, is extremely pleasing to God ; 
— that it becomes, for those who remain faithful to it, the 
starting-point towards perfection — and an unfailing source 
of spiritual blessings. 

I. 

It is an acquired truth for us that, in the work of our 
perfection, we ought to keep our gaze always fixed on Christ 
Jesus, Who is not only the one Model of our perfection 
but also the Fount of holiness for us. 

When Our Lord calls His disciples to Him, He invites 
them to leave everything so as to follow and imitate Him, 
and this they do : ” Leaving all things they followed Him ” : 
Relxctis omnibus, seculi sunt eum 1 . Our Lord even tells us 
that we cannot truly be worthy or perfect disciples, capable 
of partaking in the glory of “ His Kingdom, ” unless having 
left all things to follow Him, we have the persevering strength 
not to look back. Nemo mittens manum stiam ad aratum, el 
respiciens retro, aptus est regno Dei 2 . ‘ , 

Now as we are by nature weak and inconstant, St. Benedict 
wills that he who presents himself at the door of the mo- 
nastery in order to return to God by following Christ, shall 
'first of all be tried during the space of a year to ascertain if 
he truly seek God : Si revera Deum quaerit 3 . In a general 
manner, the Orders founded in the course of the Middle 
Ages adopted the same “ probation ” of a year. The Council 
of Trent appropriated' this delay, in enacting the Canonical 
Noviceship. After having persevered in his purpose during 
this space of time, the novice will confirm it in an irrevocable 
way by a promise made to God, a promise of his stability, 
conversion of his manners, and obedience 4 . This is monastic 
profession, which having once made, the monk is definitely 
considered as a member of the community : Et jam ex ilia 
hora in congregalione reputetur. 

The holy Legislator encompasses this promise with much 
solemnity : he wishes it to be put into writing — to be 
read aloud " in the oratory ”, — " before all the members 

he Apostolic Age (Ch. VI). These pages full of sure knowledge show hoiv, 
n the spirit of ecclesiastical tradition, religious Profession is a second 
Baptism. Setting aside this aspect of the question, we will especially confine 
ourselves to pointing out in what way religious Profession is an oblation ; wc 
shall see how this concept is placed in relief by St. Benedict. 

1. Luc. v, 11. — 2. Ibid, ix, 62. — 3. Rule, ch. lviii. — 4, This and 
the following texts cited are taken from the same chapter lviii of the Rule. 



IOS CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

of the monastery ”, — and made " in the name of the 
saints whose relics enrich the altar ” : Ad nomen sanctorum 
quorum reliquiae ibi sunt. His solemn engagement publicly 
made, the monk is to go and “ cast himself at the feet of 
his brethren that all may help him with their prayers ” ; 
Tunc prosternatur singulorum pedibus, ut orent pro co. 

The “ promise ” is at the same time a “ prayer ” a ” peti- 
tion. ” The novice asks to be received ; he especially asks 
that God’s help may be obtained for him ; he asks God 
Himself to accept him and not let the expectation of his 
soul be in vain. The terms “ engagement, ” " oath ” 
denote therefore only one side (that of the human will, 
the secondary cause) of monastic Profession, which is 
eminently regarded by St. Benedict as an act of co-operation 
wherein God’s action works, wherein human liberty co- 
operates. 

One detail is especially to be noted : St. Benedict 
links this profession to the Sacrifice of the Altar. When the 
novice has read and signed the document that bears his 
promise, he goes to place it, with his own hand, on the altar : 
Et manu sua earn super altar e ponat, as if to join the tangible 
and authentic testimony of his engagement to the gifts that 
are offered to God in sacrifice ; the monk then unites his 
immolation with that of Christ Jesus. This is in fact what 
our holy Father St. Benedict intends. We see how this 
intention is expressed in a complementary chapter where 
he treats of the reception of children ; St. Benedict wishes 
the parents to wrap their child’s hand and the act of pro- 
fession in the altar cloth, at the same time as the elements 
destined to become the matter of the Sacrifice 1 . 

Monastic Profession is indeed an immolation, and this 
immolation derives all its value from its union with Christ’s 
holocaust. Now whence does the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass 

d ® r . lv , e I, tS v ^, ue - ? Is it: not from the Sacrifice of the Cross 
which the oblation of the altar renews and reproduces ? It 
is in contemplating this Sacrifice of the Cross, in taking the 
immolation of Jesus as our example, that we shall learn the 
qualities that the offering of ourselves in Profession ought 
o ave. Christ s immolation has three special characters : 
it is a holocaust worthy of God, — a full holocaust, — a 
holocaust offered out of love. These characters should b» 
found again in our Profession. 

It is first of all a holocaust worthy of God. 

i. Rule, ch. lix. 


MONASTIC PROFESSION 


I09 

St. Paul tells us that at the moment when Christ entered 
into the world through the Incarnation, the first movement 
of his soul was to cast His gaze upon the by-gone centuries, 
upon the sacrifices that had been offered to God under the 
Old Law. The Divine Word, Who knows His Father’s infinite 
perfection, does not find these sacrifices worthy of the Father: 
“ Holocausts for sin did not please Thee ’’ : Holocautomata 
non tibi placuerunl 1 . But Christ has seen that His own 
Body is destined to be the true Victim of the only sacrifice 
worthy of God, “ A body Thou hast fitted Me ’’ : Corpus 
autem aptasti tnihi - 2 . Why is the immolation of this Body 
to be the only sacrifice pleasing to the Father ? First of 
all, because this Victim is pure and spotless ; secondly, 
because the Priest Who offers this sacrifice is ” holy, innocent^ 
separated from sinners 3 : ’’ this Victim and this Priest are 
identified in the Person of the Father’s Well-beloved Son, 
“ the Son of His love *. " If all that Jesus does is accepted 
by His Father Whose good pleasure He ever accomplishes : 
Quae placita sunt ei, facio semper E , this is above all true 
of His Sacrifice. 

, The plenitude of this Sacrifice further augments its value. 

It is a holocaust. We ought not to consider Christ’s 
Sacrifice as offered only at the time of the Passion. Christ is 
a Victim from the moment of the Incarnation, and it is as 
Victim that He offers Himself ; in entering into the world, 
He beheld the sum of suffering, humiliation, abjection and 
ignominy that He was to endure from the Crib to the Cross : 
He accepted to fulfil all that was decreed : He said to His 
Father: “Behold I come”: Ecce venio e . The initial act 
of offering whereby He wholly yielded Himself up, virtually 
contained all His sacrifice ; from that instant His immolation 
began ; and His whole life of suffering was but the continua- 
tion of this immolation. Let us clearly understand the 
meaning, at once present and retrospective, of the words our 
Lord utters upon the Cross, before breathing forth His last 
sigh : “ All is consummated ” : Oonsummatum est 7 . This 
word is like the supreme echo of the Ecce venio. 

Our Lord's sacrifice is one ; it is perfect in its duration ; 
it is also perfect in its plenitude. It is Himself, the whole 
of Himself, that Jesus Christ offers : Senietipsum obtulii 8 , and 
*that He offers unto the last drop of His Blood, unto the fulfil- 
ment of the last prophecy and of His Father’s last desire. 

i. Hebr. x, 6. — 2. Ibid. 5. — 3. Ibid, vii, 26. — 4. Col. 1, 13. — 5. 
Joan, vm, 29. — 6. Ps. xxxix, 8 : Hebr. x, 7; — 7. Joan, xix, 30. — 8; 
Hebr. ix, i-e, • ■ 



IIO CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

There is nothing so perfect as this holocaust ; it is so perfect 
that this oblation which Jesus Christ made, once for all 
of His own Body suffices to sanctify us : In qua voluntaie 
sanciificaii sumus per oblalionem corporis Jesii Christi semel 1 . 
By this " one oblation He hath perfected for ever them that 
are sanctified ” : una enim oblationc consummavit in sempiter- 
num sanclificatos 2 . 


What completely renders this holocaust infinitely pleasing 
to God is the perfection of love wherewith it is offered. 

What, in fact, is the inward motive power which urges 
the soul of Christ Jesus to embrace the Father’s will and 
to confess, by His oblation and immolation, God’s infinite 
perfections and sovereign rights ? It is love. “ Behold I 
come. In the head of the book it is written of Me that 
I should do Thy will : 0 My God, I have desired it, and Thy 
law in the midst of my heart ” : Ecce vcnio, in capiie libri 
scriplum est de me; lit faciam voluntatem tuam! Dens metis 
volui, et legem tuam in medio cordis mei 3 . It is in the midst 
of His Heart that Jesus places His 'Father’s will : this is 
as much as to say it is love that urges Him to offer Himself 
entirely to God s good pleasure. Our Divine Saviour gives 
this clearly to be understood when the moment comes to 
complete, to consummate, upon the Cross, the Sacrifice 
inaugurated by the Incarnation. Doubtless He dies for love 
° £ ^ et i£ en : Skater love, " He says, “ than this no 

man hath that a man lay down his life for his friends ”, 
Ma'jorem dxlectionem nemo habet ut animam suam ponat quis 
pro amtcts sms . But His fraternal charity is itself totally 
subordinate to the love He bears towards His Father and 

,'nJr h J; t Zeal T w deV0U , r f Him for His Father’s glory and 
a ? d , H ® - W ? uId have the whole world know the 
supremacy that this love exerts over all that He does • Ut 
cognoscat mundus quia diligo Palrem... sic facto 5 


ofThe S i£ s find thGSe characters a S ain in the Holy Sacrifio 
Our Lord has willed that the immolation of the Altar shal 

"To WtrClflr ° f thC C r S ’ byreproducingff inorde 

offers Himself To Zt is the same Christ Wh< 

otters Himself to His Father in the odour of sweetness " 

Joan, xv, 13! — 5 . ibid. TiT 3TT 3 ' PS ' XXXIX ’ 8 '9 i cf . Hebr. x, 7. — \ 


MONASTIC PROFESSION In 

cum odore suavitatis 1 ; this unbloody oblation is as acceptable 
to God as the Sacrifice of Calvary : here Jesus is the Victim 
as He was when upon the Cross, and as He was when He 
came upon earth. Upon the altar, Christ Jesus comes again 
into this world every day as Victim ; every day He repeats 
his oblation and His immolation for us. Doubtless He wishes 
us to offer Him to the Father ; but neither does He ever 
weary of urging us to offer ourselves to His Father, in union 
with Him, that we too may thus be accepted, and, having 
shared in His Sacrifice here below, may likewise share in His 
eternal glory. 

Our condition as creatures already obliges us to offer 
ourselves to God, for His dominion over us is sovereign : 
" The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof : the world 
and all they that dwell therein " : Domini est terra et plenitudo 
ejtts, orbis terrarum et universi qui habitant in eo 2 . We ought 
to confess, by our adoration and the sacrifice of our submis- 
sion to God’s will. His supreme perfection and our absolute 
dependence. 

But our condition as members of Jesus Christ also obliges 
us to imitate our Divine Head. St. Paul addresses these 
words to Christians : " I beseech you, therefore, brethren, 
by the mercy of God, ” — that is to say because of God’s 
infinite bounty towards you — " that you present your 
bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your 
reasonable service " : Obsecro vos, fratres, per misericordiam 
Dei, Hit exhibealis corpora vestra hostiam viventem, sanctam, 
Deo placentem, rationabile obsequium oestrum 3 . 

These words ought to be especially true of those who offer 
themselves to God by religious profession. 

Christians in the world offer sacrifices to God. On account 
of our fallen nature, a certain self-abnegation is necessary 
for all, a certain self-immolation, in order to obey God’s 
. commandments. But with the ordinary Christian this 
immolation has its limits ; he may offer his possessions to 
God, but he keeps the free disposal of his person ; he 
must love God, but he may also give a legitimate share of 
his love to creatures. 

He who gives himself to God by religious profession, 
renounces everything ; he comes to God with all that he 
has, all that he is : “ Behold I come ”, Ecce venio ; and he 
offers all this to God, keeping nothing back. This is what 
it means to be a living sacrifice, to offer a holocaust. At 

xii , 0rdinar y °‘ f Mass, offering of the Chalice. • — 2. Ps. xxm. — 3. Rom. 


112 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



our profession, it is as if we said : " My God, my nature 
gives me the faculty of possessing ; but I abdicate earthly 
goods that I may possess Thee alone. It allows me to love 
creatures, but I wish to love Thee alone. It authorises 
me to dispose of myself, but I wish to lay my liberty at 
Thy feet. ” We give up not only earthly possessions and 
the right of making a home of our own, but we renounce 
what is dearest to our being : our liberty ; and because we 
surrender this citadel of the will, we , surrender our entire 
being, the very root of all our activity, we keep back nothing. 
From this day we have not even, as our holy Father St. Be- 
nedict says, the disposal of our own bodies : Ex illo die nec 
proprti corporis potestatem se haUturum sciat 1 . We make 
the tradition of everything in the joyful simplicity of our 
love : Domine, in simplicitate cordis mei laeius obtuli 
UNIVERSA 2 . 

That great monk St. Gregory says : " When a soul offers 
to the Divine Omnipotence all that it has, all that is within 
f that pleases it, that is a holocaust ” : Cum quis otnne 
quod habet, omne quod vivit, otnne quod sapit omnipotenti Deo 
vovent, holocaustum cst 3 . St. Thomas expresses the same 
thought : A holocaust consists in offering to God all that 

'offertDeo 1 ' ^°^ ocaustum est cum lotwn quod habet 

By this immolation we acknowledge that God is the First 
Principle of all things ; we lay down at His feet all that 
we have received from Him, we offer ourselves up entirely, 
in order that all that we are and all that we have may return 
to Him. J 

Moreover, in order to make this holocaust more perfect, 
more complete, and, as far as possible, perpetual, we offer it 
by a solemn public promise, accepted by the Church : this 
is the Profession, the emission of the vows. It is true that 
irom the day we entered the monastery, we effectively left 
all to follow Christ Jesus ; but the great moral threshold 

as no crossed . it is the part of the vows to consecrate the 
donation and make it, of itself, irrevocable. The vows of 
require, as you know, a deliberate act of the will, 
fi a pubIlc . P romise m ade to the Church. St. Benedict 
within so : nov i c e is to consider well 

himclu f lraself f ° r some length of time, before binding 
6V - er b 7 a promise : Et si habild secum delibe- 
ratione, promtsent se omnia custodire\ 

. Aomi7 R 8, le io C ?G. L — 7T-ii‘ q cSxxv^a’V 5 '’ ~ Ezech '< ! * II; 

• 4- ii, q. clxxxvi, a. 7. — 5. Rule, ch. lviii. 


MONASTIC PROFESSION U3 

0 God, Infinite Being, Who art very Beatitude, what an 
immense and inestimable grace Thou dost give to Thy poor 
creatures in calling them to be, with the Son of Thy love, 
acceptable sacrifices, wholly consecrated to the glory of Thy 
Majesty 1 


For this holocaust to be " pleasing unto God ”, Deo placens, 
as St. Paul says, it must be united to the sacrifice of Christ 
Jesus. 

This is a truth of capital importance : it is Christ’s oblation 
which gives value to ours, and makes it worthy of the Hea- 
venly Father. It is in order to manifest outwardly this 
union of our immolation with that of Christ, that St. Benedict 
wishes the Profession to be made during the Holy Sacrifice, 
1 and the novice to place upon the altar, with his own hand, 
the parchment that contains his written promise. As every- 
thing laid upon the altar as an offering is consecrated to God, 
this act of profession is the symbol of the immolation that 
the newly professed brother has just made in the sanctuary 
of his own soul. 

How is this union of our sacrifice with that of Jesus 
carried into effect ? Through love. Love it is that unites. 
It is because we love Christ that we wish to cleave to Him 
and prefer Him to every creature. “ Come, follow Me, ” 
says Jesus ; Vent, sequere me 1 ; and like Jesus when entering 
into this world, we have said to Him : “ Behold I come, " 
Ecce vento ; I wish to cleave to Thee alone. Because I 
believe that Thou art God, very Perfection and Beatitude ; 
because I trust in the infinite value of Thy merits and of 
Thy grace ; because in Thee I love the Supreme Being, and 

for Thy Name’s sake " ; propter nomen tuutn ", I have left 
all things and I even relinquish that which is most near and 
dear to me — my liberty. Ecce nos reliquimus omnia, et 
secuti sutnus te s . 

Doubtless what we have given to God is, taken in itself, 
a very small thing. We are poor creatures who have received 
everything from our Heavenly Father, and God has no need 
of our goods : Bonorum meorum non eges *. But what God 
asks is our heart, our love ; and, as St. Gregory says, when 
love gives all, however little this " all ” may be, the gift 
k ver y , Phasing to God, because the giver keeps nothing 
back. ” In this transaction, it is the love that must be 

v M atth. XIX , 21 . — 3. Cf. Marc, x, 29-30. — 3. Matth. xx, 27; cf. Marc. 

* 2B : Luc. XVIII, 28. — 4. Ps. XV, 2. 



114 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

considered rather than the thing itself ” : Hac in re affect 
debcmus potius pensare quam censuin ; midtum reliquit qui sibi 
nihil rctimiit; mnltum reliquit qui quantumlibet parmn, totum 
deseruit b The holy Pontiff remarks that the Apostles Peter 
and Andrew materially left nothing but their fishing nets, 
but that, Laving left these things for love's sake to°follow 
Christ, they relinquished all right and power of possessing 

Separation from all that is earthly, all that is created? is 
the first aspect of holiness ; the donation of oneself to God is 
the second. But it is necessary to be “ separated ” in order 
to be “ consecrated The vows give us the power of 
reaching the highest possible degree of separation from the 
creature, since we renounce our own will. We can truly 
say : “ We have left all”, Reliquimus omnia. But we must 
not delay to add : " that we may follow Thee ”, Et secuti 
sumtts te. Such is the formula of union with God, the 
second aspect of holiness : we give ourselves, we consecrate 
ourselves to God ; and we can say to God in our monastic 
profession : Uphold me, O Lord, according to Thy word, 

and I shah live; and let me not be confounded in my 
expectation : Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquiumtuum, 
e t vwam, et non confundas me ab exspectalione mea 2 . 

When a soui thus gives itself fully to God, through love, 
r° ff k Hlm a °, ne ’ w , hen ]t 1S detached, as far as possible, 
c ^ eat “ re - from Aself, from all human springs of 

° r J er ,. t0 Ceave only to God ’ then i1: is a “holy 
”, -Hosham sanctum. It is a spotless sacrifice, 
nstained by earth. If, on the contrary, a soul retains its 
attachment to created things, it remains glued to the earth, 

nnh, m h n y A Th ® Heart 01 Chrlst J esus was attached 
only to the Father : Ego vivo propter Patrem 3 . Therelore 

bt. Paul says that Christ was an unspotted sacrifice offered 
to Cod : Qui semctipsum obtulit immaculatum Deo L The 
monk who makes profession casts away from him, in prin- 
pi 3 , e ’ , eV( r r y creature, all that could turn him away from 

W fron ! eve 7 fetter that he may be perfectly 

bound to Christ and seek solely the will of His Father. 

I his is an act of perfect love extremely pleasing to God. 
k>w S S t Profes . slon 1S the expression of so complete a 
t w P °" S blessings and unceasing joy upon 

SLff t0 Him through the ™ and 


i. Lib. I Homil. v in Evangel. u° 2. 2 Ps mm , 

3. Joan, vi, 58. — 4, Hebr. ix, 14. 2. i s. cxvni, ufi , Rule, ch. lviii. — 


MONASTIC PROFESSION U5 

iv. 

The most inestimable of the blessings that religious 
Profession brings to the soul is, assuredly, that of rendering it 
very pleasing to God. It is solidly establishedin ecclesiastical 
tradition that Profession is like a second baptism which 
restores to the Christian his entire purity 1 ; at the moment 
of the emission of vows, God forgets all the past and grants 
a universal forgiveness to the professed : He sees before Him 
only a creature totally renewed : Nova creatura 2 . At this 
blessed hour, the soul is given to Jesus as the bride to the 
bridegroom ; the mystical tomb wherein the soul is buried 
may be compared to the baptismal font wherein the 
neophyte was plunged. The Heavenly Father can say of 
this soul as of the newly baptised who has just “ put on 
Christ : " This is My beloved child in whom I am well 
pleased. ” What bounty is lavished upon this soul while 
God so lovingly beholds it in His Son 1 

The second blessing that God gives to the new religious 
is that all his actions henceforward possess great value. 
These actions all participate in the virtue of religion. 

As you know, every virtue has its own form, its particular 
beauty and special merit. But the act of a virtue can be the 
fruit of a superior virtue, for example an act of mortification 
or humility, may be' inspired by the virtue of charity, which 
is the queen of virtues. Then besides its own splendour 
and intrinsic value, this act of temperance or of humility 
assumes the beauty and merit of an act of charity. Now 
in the life of a monk, all acts of virtue assume, by the fact 
of his profession, the value of acts of religion. “ The acts 
of the different virtues, " says St. Thomas, “ become better 
and more meritorious, when they are performed in virtue 
of a vow : on this head they appertain to Divine worship, 
as if they were sacrifices ” : Opera aliarum virtutum... sunt 
meliora el magis mcritoria, si fiunt ex voto, quia sic jam perti- 
nent ad divimim cultum, quasi quaedam Dei sacrificia 3 . Thus 
Profession communicates to the monk’s whole life the 
character and virtue of a holocaust ; it makes of our life a 
perpetual sacrifice. The act of profession itself only lasts a 
few moments, but its effects are permanent and its fruits 
eternal. As Baptism is the starting point of Christian 
holiness, so is Profession that of our monastic perfection. 
It should appear to us like the gradual developing of an initial 

1. See D. G. Morin : L'iddal monasliquc , p. 60. • — *2. Gal. vi, 3 * n-i* 

q* 88, a. 6. 



Il6 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

act of immense weight. “ The property of the vows, ” says 
St. Thomas, " is to immobilise the will in good. And the 
acts which proceed from a will thus fixed in good, appertain 
to perfect virtue ” : Per votum immobiliter voluntas firmatur 
In bomim. Facere autem aliquid ex voluntate firmata in bonum, 
pertinet ad perfectionem virtutis 1 . 

But here a precision is necessary : the perfection assigned 
to us is of a definite type. In the same way as the 
baptismal vows are the initial point of our supernatural 
holiness, so monastic profession is the first impulsion 
towards our Benedictine perfection. It is not, in fact, either 
a Dominican perfection, nor a Carthusian perfection which 
is to arise from our profession : it is a Benedictine 
perfection ; for our vows have in view the practice of the Rule 
of St. Benedict and of the Constitutions which govern us : 
Promitto... obedientiatn secundum regulam S. P. Benedicli in 
congregalione nostra 2 . The Rule, interpreted by our 
Constitutions — and not the Rule of another Order, or the 
constitutions of another Congregation — is what we have 
vowed to observe. The Rule contains moreover all that is 
necessary for our perfection and holiness : it is in giving 
themselves to God by the bonds of this Rule that so many 
monks are made holy and come to the highest perfection, 
to the summit of sanctity. 

^ it is the starting point of our perfection, so our 
profession is also the origin of our joy. " Lord, in the 
simplicity of my heart, I have gladly given Thee all : ” such 
are the accents of the soul, at the moment of offering itself 
to God. But God repays this joyful generosity of the soul 
a further increase of joy. “ God loveth a cheerful 
giver _ : Hilarem datorem diligit Deus, says St. Benedict 3 , 
repeating the expression of the Apostle 4 . And as God is the 
source of all beatitude and we have left all things in order to 
cleave to Him alone. He says to us : It is I Myself Who will 
e 7l 7 reward, a reward " exceeding great ’’ : Ego merces tua 
magna ninns*. ego : Myself! I will not leave the care of 
crowning thee to any other, God says to the soul ; because 
thou art My victim, because thou art wholly Mine, I will be 

m k 7 1 ?< ler , ltan £ e ' th y Possession, and thou shalt find 
in Me thy beatitude : Ego merces tua! 

Arm L vt rd ’ thu ® indeed : “ For what have I in Heaven 

T r hee W u hat do 1 desire u P° n earth ? - Thou 

e God of my heart, and the God that is my portion 

R^V-Vil^orxx, 7. er -5?W “ nastic Profes5io “- - 3- 


MONASTIC PROFESSION ... 

i IJ 7 

for ever ” : Quid enim mihi est in caelo, et a ie quid volui 
super terrain ? Deus cordis mei et pars mea Deus in aelernum \ 

V. 

But in order to taste these joys, we must keep ourselves 
at the height of our profession ; we must remain in this 
state of absolute oblation ; we must, during our whole life 
be faithful to our vows. In the same way as, by baptism’ 
the Christian engages himself for ever " to die to sin ” and 
to strive ever " to live unto God 2 , ’’ so the monk, by his 
profession, obliges himself to be ever more and more 
detached from all that is created, in order to follow Christ 
more and more closely. 

This is an arduous task which requires of us great generosi- 
ty, because our fallen nature ever tends to take back some- 
thing of what it has given. We cannot withdraw the offer- 
ing of ourselves once made ; if we do so by wilful infidelities, 
we incur God's anger. Our holy Father St. Benedict himsell 
warns us ot this in dramatic terms : “ Let him who acts other- 
wise than as he has promised, know that he will be condemned 
by Him Whom he mocketh ” : Ut se aliquando aliter fecerit, 
ah eo se damnandum sciat quern irridet s . Never let us forget 
indeed that our chart of profession is registered in Heaven 
in the book of Predestination, and that we shall be judged 
not only as to our baptismal promises, but also as to the 
vows which we have pronounced before the holy altar : 
Stas in conspectu Dei ante hoc sacrosanctum altar e*. The 
thought of not having faithfully observed the vows by which 
he freely bound himself would be a cause of terrible anguish 
for a religious at the hour of death. God judges according 
to the truth.; He even judges our justices : Ego justitias 
iudicabo 6 . Let us therefore often examine the object of 
our threefold offering and see if we are faithful, despite 
opposition and difficulties, in keeping our vow of stability, 
m labouring at the conversion of our manners, in living in 
obedience under the guidance of the one who, for us, 
represents Christ and holds His place. 

Doubtless, this faithfulness is perfectly compatible with 
our miseries, our infirmities, the faults that escape us and 
that we deplore and try to repair ; but it cannot be recon- 
ciled with habitual and unresisted tepidity or with deliberate 
infidelities. A religious, whether monk or nun, who bargains 


Sf* ln Christ, the Liu of the Soul. — 3 . I 
of Monastic Profession. — 5. Ps. Lxxiy.,3. 




Il8 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

with Christ, who thinks that too much is asked, who makes 
reservations in the gift of self, who " looks back 1 ”, is not 
worthy of Him. For such souls, neither perfection nor 
intimate union with God is possible. 

We must then fervently strive to remain generously faithful. 
Strange aberration of certain souls who imagine that the 
profession once made, they can " take things easily ! ” But 
in reality it is quite the contrary ; then it is that the true 
life of intimate union with Jesus in His sacrifice begins 
for us. 

. Union in sacrifice, we say, but also in our inward ascen- 
sions ; for God has likewise bound Himself on His side, 
if I may thus speak : He is bound to help us, to make us 
attain to holiness. And be assured that He will keep His 
contract. Fidelis Detts 2 : " God is faithful ; ” He will never 
fail the soul who sincerely seeks Him. Our Lord clearly 
tells us so : “ Everyone that hath left house, or brethren, or 
sisters, or father, or mother... or lands for My Name’s sake, 
shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlast- 
ing. ” And Christ Jesus confirms this promise by a kind 
of oath: " Amen, I say to you 2 . ” His word is that of 
Truth itself ; it is infallible. If we are faithful to cleave to 
Jesus alone, we shall receive even here below, and without 
any possible miscalculation, the promised hundredfold ; we 
shall have our hands filled with great, immense blessings. 

. our souls the most sincere of Friends, the most 
faithful Bridegroom. 

Let us ask our Lord for the grace never to leave Him. 
Juravi et stalui : O Lord Jesus, " I have sworn and am 
determined to keep the judgments of Thy justice ”, 
C ustodire judipia jushtiae time 4 . Like Thee, for love of Thee, 
I am determined to keep my Rule even to the least detail ; 
not so much as an iota, not so much as a comma, shall be 
a .en away by me from Thy law : Iota unum aut unus apex 
non 'praclenoit a lege donee omnia fiant 6 . 

tHa hnSt m° ffe A e A? Imself to His Father 0n entering into 
nrn(a W ? r d ' f ^ t moment ' He - so to speak, made His 
profession from that moment He gave everything, although 

life unties rWh° be ma “ if “ted throughout His whole 
aSht of Sfe SV UP °V£? CrOSS ' He never retracted 
from this hnln^ d V n TT° f Hlm f lf ’ He t00k back nothing 
Father even when th” S0l ?Sbt only what pleased His 
overflowed ’ whh m 2® chaIlce «>at His Father proffered Him 
overflowed with bitterness. He could therefore say in all 

X. Luc. IX, 62. — 2. I Cnr J 

106. — 5. Matth. v, 18. ’ ’ 3-iMatth. xix, 28-29. — 4. Ps. cxvm, 


MONASTIC PROFESSION 


truth before dying : Consummatum est 1 . Let us often 
contemplate Christ Jesus in the supreme and immutable 
fidelity with which He fulfilled His mission, let us beseech 
Him to give us the grace to take nothing back of what we 
have given. Like Him, and tor love of Him, we gave all 
at the moment of our profession : all the good we have 
• done since is but the daily and exterior manifestation 
of a will and determination rendered irrevocable by our 
vows. 

St. Paul writing to his disciple Timothy exhorts him to 
" stir up ” within himself the grace which he received on 
the day of his ordination, whereby he became a partaker 
of Christ’s eternal Priesthood 2 . It is for us likewise a 
salutary practice to revive within us the grace of Profession 
by renewing the promises we then made. This monastic 
sacramental is always at our disposal : when we have 
recourse to it a new influx of divine life flows into our souls. 

After Holy Mass, there is no action so pleasing to God as 
the self-oblation of religious Profession : there is no state 
so precious in His sight as that of constancy in the disposi- 
tions wherein the soul was at that moment. It is a holy 
practice then to renew our profession daily, for example at 
the offertory of the Mass. Let us unite our sacrifice with 
that of Christ Jesus. Let us offer ourselves with Him " in 
the spirit of humility, and with a contrite heart that our 
sacrifice may be pleasing in the eyes of the Lord ” : In 
spiritu humilitatis et in animo contrito suscipiamur a te,D online, 
et sic fiat sacrificium nostrum in conspectu tuo hodie, ill plac-eat 
libi, Doinine Deus 2 . O Eternal Father, receive not only Thy 
Divine Son, but ourselves with Him of Whom we say that 
He is " a pure Host, a holy Host, an immaculate Host ” : 
Hostiam pur am, hostiam sanctam, hostiam immaculatam ®. 
Of ourselves, we are only poor creatures, but, miserable as 
we are, Thou wilt not reject us, for the sake of Thy Son 
Jesus Who is our Propitiation, and to Whom we would be 
united, so that through Him, and with Him, and in Him, 
all honour and glory be to Thee, 0 Father Almighty, in the 
unity of the Holy Ghost : Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso 
est tibi Deo Patri omnipotent*, in unitate Spiritus Sandi,omnis 
, honor et gloria 5 . 

When with all our heart we thus associate ourselves with 
our Lord’s Sacrifice, our daily life becomes the practical 
expression of the oblation made at the hour of our profes- 

i. Joan. XIX, 30. — 2. II Tim. I, 6. — 3. Ordinary of the Mass. — 4- Canon 
of the Mass. — 5. Ibid. 

\ 



120 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

sion ; it is like the prolongation of the Mass wherein Christ 
our Divine Head is immolated, and hence, our whole existence 
is transfigured into a hymn of praise, a continual Gloria 
rising up to God like the incense of the sacrifice, “ in the 
odour of sweetness ” ; cum odore suavitatis, an act of perfect 
adoration indefinitely renewed. The vows nail us to the 
Cross with Christ, and it may be said that these mystical 
nails were forged by the Church, the Bride of Christ, since 
it is she who approves our vows. It is the Church’s explicit 
intervention which guarantees that our vows are so 
pleasing to our Lord and so useful to our souls. Doubtless 
the religious state is hard for nature, for it obliges us to 
constant abnegation. When St. Gertrude, on one All Saints 
Day, contemplated the legions of the elect, she saw that 
religious figured in the ranks of martyrs : the vision signified 
that profession makes of our life a perpetual holocaust 1 . 

Do not say, ” an author of the first centuries had already 
exclaimed, do not say that in our days the conflicts where 
martyrs triumph no longer exist. For peace itself has its 
martyrs. To repress anger, to flee from impurity, to keep 
justice, despise avarice, to beat down our pride, is not this 
to accomplish the principal acts of martyrdom 2 ? ” 

But the generous and faithful soul finds in this ever 
renewed self -oblation an inexhaustible joy, an ever increasing 
]oy, because this joy comes from One Who is infinite and 
immutable Beatitude. It is this Divine Beatitude that we 
wished to gain when we left all things, like to the merchant, 
who when he had found one pearl of great price... sold 
a 1 that he had, and bought it ” : Inventa autem una pretiosa 
marganla... vendidii omnia quae habuit, et emit ewn 3 . This 
happiness we shall find if we are ever seeking it • we shall 
possess it one day in all its perfection, or rather we'shall lose 
ourselves in its infinity : so much the more deeply lost in it 
according to the measure wherein here below we are the 
more detached from creatures in order to cleave exclusively 
to Lnrist . hcce nos reliquimus omnia et secuti sumus te. 

nolirJ^marivriftnLF! V ^ n ‘ ^ ove , 1 . IV, ch. Lv. — 2. Nemo dicat quod tcmporibus 
Namimcuud^Z possint; haba enim pax marlyres sues. 

c£?cmn?n s^hZm e ^,• Wtitiam cuslodire. avarUiam 

comcmnere, superbtam humiliate, pars maena martvrtt est M ime P I 


VII. — THE " INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ". 


Summary. — Religious Profession inaugurates the true monastic life 
— I. Why St. Benedict compares the monastic life to a " soil 
ritual workshop ”. — II. The instruments he puts in our 
hands that we may excel in it. — III. In what way we are to 
make use of them ; divers stages. — IV. The part that in 
our ascetic industry, proceeds from the divine co-operation.— 

V. Love is the supreme mainspring of this undertaking — 

VI. Fruits of a life guided by love. — VII. Persevering strength 
requisite in order to attain final success. 


I T is under the guidance of Christ Jesus that we must 
return to God. Christ is the Leader Who shows us the 
way and brings us to the supreme end. Faith yields us 
up to Christ, by causing Him to reign in us — a reign 
which is accepted in substance on the day of Baptism, and 
renewed in its full extent on the blessed day of our monastic 
Profession : at that hour we overcame the world by an act 
of practical faith, in order to surrender ourselves entirely to 
Christ and attach us to Him alone without looking back : 
" Behold we have left all things, and have followed Thee ” : 
Ecce nos reliquimus omnia et secuti sumus te 1 . 

But religious Profession is only the beginning of our real 
monastic life, as the donation that Christ made of Himself 
to His Father’s good pleasure on entering into the world, 
was but the ineffable prelude to all His humano-divine 
activity. The faith that gave us up to Christ when we 
pronounced our Vows ought to continue to be a daily prin- 
ciple of action in us ; it ought, if it is to be perfect, to blossom 
into love, and, through a motive of love, set all our energies 
m motion, in order that we may work out our union 
with Christ Jesus. 

It is truly thus that our Holy Father, " filled with the 
spirit of all the just, ” according to the saying of St. Gregory 2 , 
conceives the cenobitical life which we have embraced by 
our profession. See for yourselves. The first vow that he 
makes us pronounce is that of stability which binds us to 
the cenobitical society and fixes us in the monastery until 
death : Usque ad mortem in monasterio perseverantes 3 . But 
i. Mattli. xix, 27. — 2. Dialog, lib, u, c. vm. — 3. Prologue of the Rule. 


122 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

under what aspect does he present this monastery ? Under 
that of a " spiritual workshop. ” Trades are not learnt 
there, but the soul is exercised in seeking God. The spiritual 
workshop is also “ a school of the Lord’s service ” '.Dominici 
schola servitii 1 . In this workshop, in this school, the holy 
Legislator places what he calls the “ instruments of good 
works, ” the " tools of the spiritual craft ” : Instrumenta 
bonorum operum, arlis spiritualist. 

Let us try to understand the profound teaching hidden 
under these expressions. Why does St. Benedict compare 
the monastic life to a " spiritual craft What are the 
“ instruments ’’ that he places in our hands that we may 
learn to excel ? In what manner are we to make use of 
them ? We shall have to recognise the part that, in our 
ascetical industry, proceeds from the Divine operation 
finally we will explain how love must be the supreme 
mainspring of the whole of this undertaking, and with what 
firm perseverance we must continue in it so that it mav 
be crowned with success. 


I. 

The essentially practical terms that our Holy Father 
employs sufficiently emphasize that an urgent work of 
activity is traced out for us. 

t , Fo [ ? t- Benedict, the necessity of good works is evident. 

wV° f K y t 1 ? 1 . h ® se * s before us - namely, to find God, is 
not to be obtained without good works. “ If we wish, ” he 

say m e Prologue, to dwell in the tabernacle of His 
Kingdom, we must run thither — and he uses this term 
time after time — by good works... ’’ We shall only 
become hems of the Kingdom of Heaven if we fulfil by our 
deeds the requisite conditions for obtaining this inheritance, 
it is for this reason, he adds, that a " delay, " a “ respite ” 
1S ^0 us by God in this present life 1 . 

at are the works that the holy Legislator exhorts us 
to accomplish and for which he gives us “instruments of 
the spiritual art ? " 

First of all remark the exactitude of this last expression. 
rs, says bt. ihomas, esl ratio recta aliquorum operum jacien- 

" woricshop 11 " °* 1 ' The metaphor of "instrument", 

terms in the 1 us from the East ; we find these 

of the Desert Cf h'kewic^ cft C ln CISm o£ tbe first centu ries and of the Fathers 
R • Of. likewise S' Thomas, u-n, q . jSa, a. a. c fin ■ a 188 a. 

— 4. Prologue^! the R™e'.’ 6 ! CXV "‘’ 32 : Viam tuor'iim cucurri. 


THE " INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ” 123 

dorum l . Art consists in giving a faithful material reproduc- 
tion of an idea, of an ideal. Consider a work of art It 
exists, to begin with, in the thought of the artist ; it is this 
thought that guides his hand ; and when the work is’executed 
it is often but an imperfect reflection of the ideal formed 
and cherished by the master’s genius. God, if we may thus 
speak, is the greatest of artists. The whole creation is but 
the outward expression of the ideal that God forms to 
Himself of all things in His Word. As the artist finds 
his delight in the work that reproduces his thought, so crea- 
tion, in coming forth from God’s hands, was seen by Him 
to be “ very good ’’, because it responded perfectly to the 
ideal of its Divine Author : Viditque Deus quae fecerat et 
erant valde bona 2 . The Holy Spirit stirs up the Psalmist 
to contemplate nature thereby to glorify the God of creation. 
Domine, Dominus noster, quam admirabile est nomen tnum in 
universa terra 2 : " O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is 
Thy name in the whole earth ! ” Omnia in sapientia 
jecisti: " Thou hast made all things in wisdom 4 . ” We do 
the same as the Psalmist when, at the chanting of the 
Benedicite of Lauds, we lend to all beings the accents of our 
lips, the life of our understanding and of our heart, in order 
to praise God for having made them. 

But there remains a great difference between us and ma- 
terial things. They are but a vestige, a far-off reflection of 
the Divine Beauty. Man, on the contrary, was created with 
an intellect and a heart in the image of God : Faciamus 
liominem ad imaginem et similitudinem nostrum 2 . Such is 
the secret of the dignity of man and the ineffable love that 
God bears towards him. “ My delights are to be with the 
children of men ” : Deliciae meae esse cam filiis hominum 6 . 
God loves His image in us. Now, as you know, this image 
has been degraded, disfigured by original sin and by our 
personal sins. All spiritual art is hence to consist in 
repairing the consequences of this degradation, and of restor- 
ing to the soul its primitive beauty, in order to give God 
the joy of seeing His image more perfectly reflected in us. 

God is the first to work at this restoration. To this end, 
He sends His Son, " perfect God and perfect Man ” : Per- 
fectus Deus, pcrfectus homo 7 . As God, Christ is “ the image 
of the invisible God and the brightness of His glory 8 :” 
He is the adequate and substantial image of the eternal 

i. I-II, q. 57, a, 3. — a. Gen. 1, 31. — 3- Ps. viii, 1. — 4- • Ps. cm, 24. — 
5. Gen. 1, 26. — 6. Prov. vm, 31. — 7- Creed attributed to S' Athanasius. — 
8. Col. 1, 15 ; Hebr. 1, 3. 



124 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK i • 

perfections ; He is perfect God, pure and spotless Light; 
begotten by Light. As Man, He is likewise perfect, surely 
the most beautiful of the children of men ; His soul is im- 
maculate, adorned with the plenitude of grace. Christ is 
the beloved Son in Whom the Father recognizes Himself ; 
in the midst of creation, He is the Divine Masterpiece in 
Whom is all the Father’s delight. 

And it is Christ Who becomes for us the type, the example 
which we must reproduce in order to restore the divine 
beauty to our souls and to be admitted into the heavenly 
kingdom. How many times have we not meditated on 
these truths ? He Who created us has willed that Christ 
shall be the very form of our predestination : Praedestinavit 
[?ios Dais] conformes fieri imaginis Filii sui 1 . 

The "new creature” : nova crcatura 2 , who is the child of 
adoption in Christ Jesus, reproduces in God’s sight the 
«f His beloved Son. God's great desire is that we 
should resemble His Son Jesus as perfectly as possible, 
therefore the whole method of the spiritual art consists in 
keeping the eyes of the soul unceasingly fixed upon Christ 
our Model, this humano-divine Ideal, in -order to reproduce 
His features in us. It is thus that we shall rehabilitate our 
nature and raise it to its first splendour ; and it is thus we 
may be assured of the delight and liberality of the Heavenly 
Father, because then He will recognize in us the many 

luMisJrafribuk ^ : Ut sit ^ se Primogenitus in 

But you will say : Has not baptism washed away sin and 
has !t not clad us with Christ Himself ? Quicumqne in Chris- 
to baphzati estis, Christum indnistis*. Assuredly; however 
we ave as yet but the principle of our progressive 
assimilation ; evil tendencies remain . in us ever ready to 
brea . k ^ lr } s . mful deeds which disfigure the soul. On the 
one hand it is in removing these stains and overcoming these 
tendencies and on the other hand in developing this resem- 

to perfection 1151 ^ th<2 practice of virtues, that we tend 

What in fact is a Christian ? " Another Christ, ” all 

antiqmty replies. And who is Christ ? The Man-God. 

wwSr ST 8 d r cs , tr °y sin b y His death ; He brings life 
whereof He has the fulness. To renounce sin and participate 
m this life, such is the programme so clearly traced out by 
bt. Paul to the neophyte on the day when by his baptism 
he becomes Christ’s disciple : " So do youalso reckon, 

i. Rom. vni, 29, — a. Gal. vi, 15. — 3. R om . vm , 29. — 4. Gal. in, ay. 


THE " INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ” I25 

that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus ’’: 
Ita et vos existimate, vos mortuos esse psccato, viventes autem 
Deo, in Christo Jesu K And this twofold formula is the sum- 
mary of the whole work of the Christian and of all religious 
asceticism. 

Manifestly St. Benedict makes this the starting point of 
the perfection that he wishes to develop in his monks. 
Through Christ’s grace, the Christian dies to sin and lives 
to God : St. Benedict wishes us to carry out this plan to its 
full achievement. Like the simple Christian, the monk is 
the child of God, called by God to eternal beatitude, having 
Christ as Head and being sustained by the grace of Christ. 
But if he starts from the same point as the simple Christian, 
the monk goes further in order to reach a beatitude which! 
substantially the same, is yet capable of degrees reaching to 
ever ascending heights. The simple Christian dies to sin ; 
the monk, by his vows, renounces created things, renounces 
himself. The simple Christian lives, through grace, for God ; 
the monk must have in view perfect charity where every 
human motive power disappears. The monk seeks to bring 
to realisation the fulness of the Christian life ; he must 
possess within himself a deeper degree of “ death ”, but 
also a more powerful intensity of "life” than is the’ case 
with the ordinary faithful. To the precepts the observance 
of which leads to the Kingdom of Heaven, he adds the 
practice of the counsels which give a greater vigour and 
perfection to the merely Christian life. 

Hear how the great Patriarch himself presents these ideas : 
he first makes the monk listen to the Divine voice : " The 
Lord, ’’ he says, " seeks His workman in the multitude of 
the people, and cries out : "Who is the man that will have 
life, and desireth to see good days. ” The end is here 
indicated : the divine life, God’s beatitude shared here below 
,, *-b, up above in the brightness of eternal light. "And 
u,. continues the holy Legislator, “ thou respondest to 
this invitation by the words " I am he : ’’ what will be the 
Lord’s reply ? “ Turn from evil, and do good ; seek peace, 

and pursue it 2 . ’’ Here is characterised the twofold work 
to which St. Benedict would have us apply ourselves while 
living in the monastery : Avoid evil and do good ; and by 
the same fact, possess peace. Very general terms in which 
he summarizes the spiritual craft. 

So true is it that our Holy Father sees in monastic holiness 
only the normal but full expansion of baptismal grace, for 

1. Rom, vi 11. — 2. Prologue of the Rule. 



126 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

his spirituality, — I cannot insist too much upon this 

proceeds directly from the Gospel ; it is all steeped in it 
and this it is that gives it that seal of greatness and sim- 
plicity, of strength and sweetness, which especially charac- 
terises it. 

II. 

In practice, the fulfilment of this maxim " to turn from . 
evil and do good” is apportioned according to specifically 
divers precepts and- manifold acts 1 . St. Benedict thus 
furnishes his spiritual workshop — the monastery — with 
various instruments, which the workmen — the monks — 
have to learn how to handle and continue to use. 

But what are these " instruments ” ? The holy Lawgiver 
calls by this name sentences taken for the most part from 
Holy Scripture, others borrowed from the ancient Fathers 
of the Church and the early monastic writers. These are 
sentences, aphorisms, maxims which point out some fault to 
be avoided, some vice to be uprooted, some virtue to be 
practised. These axioms which, by their concise form, recall 
the formulas of the Decalogue, are easily retained by the 
memory, and the mind turns them over to derive fruit from 
them, and puts them into practice when the moment comes : 
heyare to help us to overthrow the obstacles opposed to 
the Divme action in us and to practise acts of virtue. 

As souls are different and have not the same tendencies 
to evil or identical aptitudes for good, our Holy Father 
has multiplied instruments : seventy-three are to be counted. 
When a man of the world reads over the list 2 , he is nearly 
always astonished to see St. Benedict giving his sons recom- 
mendations which concern only the order of natural morality 
or the life of the simple Christian. " To love God with all 
one s heart, all one s soul, all one’s strength ; to love one’s 
neighbour as oneself; to honour all men ; not to do to 
another what one would not have done to oneself ; to tell 
the truth from heart and mind ; not to kill, not to steal, 

to t bear ^ ls !' vlt " e . ss : t0 reliev e the poor ; to visit the 
sick ; to console the afflicted. ” 

Why does our Blessed Father thus blend counsels so general 
or so specifically Christian with exhortations of purely mo- 

Ss? ira l0, ! ? ?i S undoubtedl y because, in his time, 
Christian civilisation had not penetrated everywhere and the 

t0 the philOSOpherS ’ 


THE " INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ” I27 

atmosphere that Christians breathed was yet laden with evil 
effluvia, the persistant remains of Paganism or relapses into 
barbarism 1 . In his monasteries were to be found .noblemen 
who had known the most decadent periods of Roman society, 
there were also Goths scarcely freed from their brutal 
passions. For the use of such kind of disciples, it was 
necessary to publish anew even the precepts of the natural 
law and the current truths of the Gospel. We know 
moreover that these precepts implicitly contain all the 
perfection of the corresponding virtues. 

Another and deeper reason guided the Holy Lawgiver in 
his choice : in thus blending sentences of the Christian life 
with those that concern monks only, St. Benedict wished to 
emphasize the plainly “ Christian ” character that he meant 
to give to his spirituality. The monk was to be first of all 
a man who observes the natural law, and then fully 
practises the Christian law. Religious perfection comes from 
the same root as Christian perfection in general ; the holy 
Legislator combines the precepts and the counsels in close 
conjunction : never has the Evangelical ideal appeared more 
indivisible. 

This is why the Patriarch does not arrange his instruments 
according to an altogether systematic order which would 
result from a methodical plan all traced out in advance. 
In this again, he resembles the Gospels, he is eminently simple 

— which does not prevent him from being sure — in his 
manner of leading souls to God. However, certain groups 
stand out clearly : here are instruments that concern our 
duties towards God ; there are those that regulate our rela- 
tions with our neighbour ; finally others that more directly 
concern ourselves. 

But whatever be the number and diversity of the said 
instruments, we must use them with discernment. We can- 
not attempt to employ them all at the same time, any 
more than we can practise all the virtues at the same time ; 
souls are different and needs are various. 

^ Some of the sentences recall general dispositions that ought 
always to animate us : “ To love God with all our heart and 
with all our soul ; — to prefer nothing to the love of Christ ; 

— to desire eternal life with all the intensity of our love ; 

*■ Cf. S. Gregor. Dialog, i, ix. S* Benedict is seen overthrowing the 
mols of Monte Cassino; before this he had endured the infamous proceedings 
of a bad priest ; he had only just escaped being poisoned by the wicked monks 
m the neighbourhood of Subiaco. 


128 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

— to keep guard at every hour over the actions of our life • 

— not to forget that God beholds us everywhere. ” 

Other instruments are to be utilised at certain hours, for 

example at the moment of temptation : " To dash down at 
the feet of Christ evil thoughts as soon as they arise in 
the heart. " 

Others are particularly fitted to root out some vice or 
repress some evil inclination. It is for each soul to see 
what are the perverse inclinations that have the ascendency 
and tend to disfigure the divine image within it. When the 
soul is attached to the creature, it is fashioned to the image 
of this creature, and every bad tendency that is not striven 
against becomes, by the deeds that proceed from it the 
origin of many stains that we have to remove in order to be 
made like Christ Jesus. With one soul it is pride that 
dominates and becomes the principle of a host of reprehensible 
deeds. To such a one our Blessed Father gives proper 
instruments for repressing the divers manifestations born of 
his pride : Not to love contestations ; to fly from vain- 

r sees a ,?y g°od in oneself, to attribute it to 

God, and not to oneself ; — on the contrary, to impute to 
oneself the evil that one does and to believe oneself the 

esteem 0 ^ 11 ’ one ’ s . own wiU > ~ not to wish to be 

esteemed as holy before one is so ; but first of all to be holy 

th ma y be with more truth that one is so called. ” 
With another, it is levity of mind that hinders divine union; 

^ • SOul ls recollecte d ; at Communion Our 
w £ and embalms it with the perfume of 
wav tn H -1 y ’ }- Ui ’ ieii the oratory, this soul gives 

dls . sl P at /° n - mdulges in useless words. If this 8 im- 
perfection is not fought against it will, during the day, make 

WhaToliH % Pa ? i fruits bis union withChrist. 
in Lie a f , , e «^r?° iab- the instruments appropriate 
of his lifp 6 - C S ’ ir over bis actions at every moment 

_ not . i ’ \ ee P bis tongue from all unruly discourse ; 
— not love much speaking. ” And so forth. . 

and tns°p r pt aCh L 0 f e - t0 !?, 0W bimself in the light from on high 
however al a V S S ? U wantin S to him ; there is no one, 
neressa™ ^,ct nCed ’ Tr ° Wdl not find in this workshop the 

in his soul lhe 

III. 

Not only are souls different, but one and the same soul 


THE " INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ’* i 2 § 

goes through different stages which our Holy Father has well 
defined. 

The spiritual craft has its beginnings, and like all beginnings • 
these are painful. The entrance into the way of salvation 
is always narrow : _ Via salvtis non est nisi an gusto initio 
incipiendo \ Why is this ? Because it is a " conversion ” 
which we have to bring about. A man must divest himself 
of his way of envisaging things, of his manner of acting • 
he must renounce himself, go against his vicious habits’ 
the tendencies of concupiscence, apply himself to uprooting 
vices, to destroying and rectifying, feature by feature, that 
caricature of God to which a soul plunged in sin may be 
likened , and this with so much the more perseverance as 
habits contrary to the virtues predominate in us. To get a 
statue out of a block of marble, one must first rough-hew 
the block. When we arrive at the monastery, we are a 
little like these rough blocks. In His goodness, God subjects 
us to His interior action, but gives us also into the hands 
of our Superiors and to our own personal efforts in order 
that from this work may come forth little by little the 
realisation of the Divine ideal. If we do not courageously 
take the necessary instruments and employ them faithfully, 
we shall remain very nearly in the state of unhewn blocks. 
Then as we are yet novices in the a.rt to be practised, we are 
awkward, clumsy in the use of the instruments ; hence we 
must feel our way ; there are hesitations, perplexities, doubts, 
which may further increase what is rough in the work itself. 
It is a laborious stage to be gone through, but it is a necessary 
one. 

Moreover St. Benedict takes care .to encourage the soul 
at the outset. In this spiritual workshop, in this school 
where we learn to seek God, he has it at heart, he says, to 
establish nothing rigorous or too arduous a . He uses 
ver y great discretion ; he is a father. To one who comes 
to place himself under his direction, he says : " If for the 
amendment of vices or the preservation of charity, things 
are a little strictly laid down: "Si quid paulukim restrictius... 
processerit, " take care, lest, under a cowardly emotion, you 
fly from the way of salvation of which the entrance is strait 
Non illico favore perterritus refugias vlam salutis 3 . 

What argument does he employ ? Does he relax anything 
°f the vigour of the precepts? Does he dissemble the 
obligation of self-renunciation ? Far from it, as we have 
seen. But he shows already the facilities and joys of 

.t. Prologue of the Rule. — a. Ibid. — 3. Ibid. 


130 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

acquired virtue, and gives a foretaste of the intimate rewards 
promised to effort. “ In the measure one advances in the 
observance and in faith, ” he says, “ the heart is enlarged 
and enables one to run with unutterable sweetness of love 
in the way of God's commandments ” : Processu vero conver- 
sationis el fidei, inenarrabili dilcctionls dulccdine curritur via 
mandatorum Dei 1 . When Oite is generous from the outset, 
and attentive to the light of faith, love increases, for God 
gives Himself the more ; and, with the presence of God, the 
joy of being in His service abounds. The heart is enlarged, 
our Blessed Father affirms. That is as much as to say the 
heart is the capacity of loving, and this capacity is infinite 
as regards the object whereto the soul must tend. “ Thou 
hast made us for Thyself, 0 God, and our heart is restless 
till it rests in Thee ” : Fecisti nos ad Te, etinquietum est cor 
nostrum donee requiescat in Te\ The actual capacity of 
the heart is measured by the object of its present affections : 
if this object is small, the heart becomes small; if this 
object is infinite, the heart enlarges its power even to the 
infinite. To one who sees God, creatures appear small : 
Videnti Creatorem angusta est omnis creatura, say St. Grego- 
ry 3 , in speaking of St. Benedict himself. 

Now, when one truly seeks God, without going aside after 
creatures, without any self-seeking, the heart is gradually 
enlarged , God fills it and, with God, joy floods it. 


THE " INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ” 


131 


of action for all that it does, it does solely for the love of 
Christ and the attraction of virtue : universa... inci-bit 
custodire, non 'jam timore gehennae, sed amore christi et 
delectationc virtutum 1 . The soul has placed the love of Christ 
in the centre of itself, and this love makes it find everything 
light, however painful it be : then with great facility and 
perfection it acquits itself of labours that formerly with 
manifold efforts it only accomplished imperfectly. Virtue 
has become to it almost a second nature : Absque itllo labore 
velut naturaliter a . ' 


The state that we are describing is that of perfect charity 
of the perfection of union with God : the soul no longer 
seeks aught but Him alone ; it .no longer wills anything except 
His glory ; it no longer acts except by the movement of the 
Holy Spirit. Are there then no more trials to undergo ? 
no more sufferings to endure ? Yes, indeed ; but the unction 
of grace sweetens every trial, and love finds in the cross a 
new opportunity of manifesting itself and increasing. Love 
is the principle of those wonderful interior ascensions that the 
Lord, by the action of His Spirit, operates and manifests in 
purified souls : Quae Dominus in operario suo mundo a viliis et 
peccalis Spiritu Sancto dignabitur demonstrare 3 1 


IV. 


Furthermore, this very joy augments the capacity of love ; 
and then, says our Holy Father, — this is the second stage 
■ ' one runs in the way of the commandments : there are 
no longer those painful beginnings, those oft repeated efforts 
\nth winch one struggled, but, with the ever increasing light 
of faith, fervour stirs one up in God’s service and renders 
that service full of sweetness. Then, whatever be the 
vicissitudes of life, the monk " never departs from the 
teaching of the Divine Master, " Who is the Truth “ but 
perseveres in His doctrine, ” the light of the soul ; and if 
he shares in Christ s sufferings it is that he may deserve by 
patience also to enjoy the bliss of His Kingdom 4 . 


The last stage marked out by St. Benedict is that of 
perfect charity. This stage, he says, is attained when the 
soul is purified from its vices and sins " munda a viliis 
etpeccaUs . Not only does the soul no longer obey its vicious 
habits, for it has uprooted them all as far as a creature can ; 


1. Prologue of the Rule. — 2. S 
n, c. xxxv. — 4. Prologue of the 


. Aug. Conjes. lib. I, c. i. 
Rule. — 5. Rule, cn. vii. 


— 3. Dialog. Ub. 


But whatever be the stage in which the soul is, its work, 
however, is never anything but a work of co-operation. The 
soul is not alone : God works in it and with it : for He is ever 
the first Author of its progress. 

Doubtless, at the outset, when the soul is yet encumbered 
with vices and evil habits, it must needs apply itself with 
virility and ardour to remove these obstacles which are oppos- 
ed to divine" union. The co-operation that God requires of 
it at this period is particularly great and active, and is reveal- 
ed very clearly to the conscience. During this period, God 
grants sensible graces that uplift, and encourage. But the 
, sou l experiencies inward vicissitudes : it falls, then rises up 
again ; it labours, then rests ; it takes breath again, and then 
goes forward on its way. 

As far and in the measure as the soul advances, and 

1 ■ Rule, ch. vit. S* Augustine, Traci. V ini Joan. n° 4, thus characterises 
nese three stages : Carilas cum fuerii natit mtlrilur ; cum juerit nuirita robora- 
f llcrit fohorata perficitur. S. Thomas (11-11. q. 24, a. 9} classes 
+. . l * ire , e categories of souls after this manner : the incipientcs, the proficicnics, 
the per fecit. — 2. Rule, ch. vii. — 3. Ibid. 



132 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

obstacles give way, the inner life becomes more homogeneous- 
more regular, more uniform ; the action of God is felt to be* 
more powerful, because it is more free to act and because it 
meets with less resistance and more suppleness in the soul : 
then we rapidly go forward in the path of perfection. 

All this economy of our religious life is explained by the 
fact that all holiness is of its essence supernatural. God 
alone is the Author of it ; and if He does not Himself build 
the house it is in vain that the masons labour : Nisi Dominus 
aedificavcrit domitm in vanum labor averunt qui aedificant earn K 
Our Lord has so clearly given us this fundamental doctrine. 

* I am Vine, you are the branches ; abide in Me that 
you may bear fruit, for without Me you can do nothing” : 
Suie , me nihil potestis facer e 2 . " Let no one, ” says St. Au- 
gustine in commenting upon this passage, " imagine that he 
can, by himself, bear the least fruit. Whether it is a matter 
°k muc h or doing little, one can only succeed through 
the help of Him without Whom we can do nothing. If the 
branch does not remain united to the vine and does not 
draw the nourishing sap from the stem, it cannot by itself 
F., “ ce . ^ le least fruit ” : Sive ergo parum, sive mullum, sine 
Ulo fieri non potest sine quo nihil fieri potest... nisi in vite 
niansenl el vixerit de radice, quanlumlibet fructum a semeti-bso 
non potest ferre 3 . 

St Benedict well knows these important truths and their 
different aspects. He does not tell us to abstain from good 
wor« , quite the contrary, as we have seen at the beginning 
a conference : we must do all that depends upon us. 
A though our Lord is the Fountainhead of our sanctification. 
He sees it good to leave to us a share of work to perform ; 
or we are causes, really such, although entirely subordinate 
to the Divine causality. It is only on the condition that 
we generously and faithfully contribute the said share that 
He will continue and consummate in us the work of our 
T ° 1 lma S ine then that Christ will take upon 
'f! sef ,, aU , thc wor k would be a dangerous illusion ; but to 
„„ ^ e , that could do anything whatsoever without Him 
Zr w n ° leSS P erd P us - We must be convinced too that 
JesuT° rks are onl y of value by reason of our union with 

in+r^nnf i * ns Jf ume p ts that the Holy Legislator puts 
this nrTr-.q C '+ anCl f 4 lere . ls one which expressly concerns 

oerfecHon to TV ^ femng everything, in the work of our 
perfection, to Divine grace: "To attribute any good one 

i. Ps. cxxvi, I. _ 2 . Joan, xv, j. _ 3 . Trad. in Joan, lxxx, 3 . 


THE " INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ” I33 

sees in oneself to God, and not to oneself ; as to the evil 
always to impute it to oneself and recognize it as one’s own ” : 
Bonutn aliquod in se cum viderit, Deo applicet, non sibi ; malum 
veto semper a se factum sciat et sibi reputet. But in what 
way does St. Benedict teach us how to make this conviction 
enter into the very trend of our life ? 

First, he inculcates the necessity of prayer, at the very 
beginning of every undertaking. In his Prologue after 
having shown the end — to seek God, — and marked the 
way — Christ, — he immediately tells us not to put our 
hand to any good work without earnestly beseeching God 
to bring it to a good end : In primis, ut quidquid agendum 
inchoas bonum, ab eo per fid instantissima oratione deposcas. 
Weigh well all these terms, for each has its value. In primis : 
" first of all, ” " before all, " the thing that he most wishes to 
teach us, is to have recourse to the One Who is the first 
and principal Author of our sanctification, because without 
His grace we can do nothing. 

Quidquid... bonum: "whatever be the work proposed," 
that is to say a " good " work, morally good, which procures 
the glory of God, for it evidently cannot be question of 
an evil work, of a work wherein the creature, or the seeking 
after self enters as the principal end, or from which God 
would be absent. Instantissima oratione: " with most earnest 
prayer, ” for it is necessary to knock that God may open, 
to seek so that we may find, to ask so that we may receive. 
And what must we ask ? That God will perfect our work : ab 
eo perfici. Manifestly, the holy Patriarch here has in mind 
the text of the Apostle : " For it is God Who worketh in , 
you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good 
will " : Deus est qui operatur in vobis et velle et perficere 
pro bona voluntate 1 . 

And see how our Holy Father himself applies this recom- 
mendation in his Rule. When monks go on a journey or 
return from one 2 ; on entering into their functions as weekly 
servers at table and on ending their week’s service 3 ; in 
receiving guests 4 ; in all these actions, so simple and ordinary 
in the course of our life, and in yet others, he wishes that 
the Community should goto the oratory there to invoke God’s 
help. 

The work ended, the good achieved, St. Benedict further 
wishes that we should refer the glory to Him without Whom 
we can do nothing. Those who seek God, he writes in his 
Prologue, are not be puffed up by their good observance ; 

!• Philip. ii, 13. — 2. Rule, ch. lxvii. — 3 ;Ibid. ch. xxxv. — 4. Ibid, ch.un 


134 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

" knowing that the good which is in them comes not from 
their own power but is wrought by the Lord, they magnify 
the Lord Who worketh in them ” : Operantem in se Dominant 
magnificant, " saying with the Prophet, Not unto us, O Lord 
not unto us, but unto Thy name give the glory 1 . " " Again ” 
he adds, " the Apostle Paul attributed nothing of the success 
of his preaching to himself, but said : By the grace of God 
I am what I am 2 , and elsewhere : He that glorieth, let him 
glory in the Lord 3 . ” 

You will say : Are not our works our own ? , Certainly 
they are, since it is we who act ; but these works are good 
only if we accomplish them, moved by grace, in the faith 
and love of Christ. We are the branches, Christ is the 
root. Is it the root that bears fruit ? No, it is the branch 
it is we ourselves ; but it is the branch, inasmuch as it is 
united by the trunk to the root and draws its sap from the 
root ; it is we, inasmuch as we are united to Christ Jesus 
and draw grace from Him. If, at the sight of a branch 
covered with beautiful- fruits, we believe they are produced 
by the branch, abstraction made of its union with the root, 
we are in error ; the branch only produces fruits by drawing 
from the root the sap necessary for their formation. - So it 
is with us , never let us forget this ; the branch separated 
from the trunk, from the root, is a dead branch : such is 
our lot unless we remain united to Christ by grace. 

This union comprises moreover an indefinite number of 
degrees ; the intenser and stronger it is, that is to say the 
fewer obstacles we oppose to grace, and the deeper our faith 
and love, the more numerous will be the fruits that we 
shall bear. 

It is, then, very important to direct our mind and heart 
towards God, with faith and love, before beginning anything 
whatsoever it may be : our mind, in order to have no other 
end before us but the glory of our Heavenly Father ; our 
heart in order to have no other will save His : a two-fold 
result which is the realisation of the “ very earnest prayer ” 
required by St. Benedict. This prayer which ought to be 
oft repeated throughout the course of the day, need not be 
long . being most often reduced to a simple turning towards 
God, to a spiritual spark rising up to Him, it rather resembles 
in form what in these latter days we call ejaculatory prayer. 
What gives it price and value is the rectitude of intention, 
the purity of our faith and the intensity of love. All this 
teachmg wonderfully harmonises with our Holy Father’s asser- 

i. Prologue of the Rule; Ps. cxi,i._ 2 . I C or. xv, 10.-3. II Cor. x, 17. 


THE INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ” 

tion that a soul’s progress towards perfection goes together 
with progress in faith. Faith increases love; love as it 
becomes greater, surrenders the soul more' and more to the 
action of Christ Who works in us by His Spirit, and this 
action of Christ becomes more and more powerful and more 
fruitful in the measure that vices are uprooted, that the soul 
becomes more detached from creatures and that every human 
mainspring of action vanishes. 

The great Patriarch strives in his Rule to open widely the 
avenues of our souls so that the grace of the Gospel may 
abundantly penetrate therein and produce all its effects of 
holiness : operantem in se Dominum magnificant. He has 
no other end in organising the workshop of the spiritual 
craft and in giving us entry into it, than to ensure all freedom 
for the Divine action within us. He wishes us to seek God 
by our good works, but at the same time to rely solely 
upon His Divine Son Christ Jesus. 

Once being thoroughly and practically convinced that all 
good comes, from God, we are for ever guaranteed against 
discouragement. -Incleed if, without union with Christ by 
faith and love, we can do nothing, with this union we can 
do everything that God expects of us. Our oneness with 
Christ accords very well, not with sin — above all deliberate 
or habitual sin, even venial — but with our weaknesses, 
our miseries, and the short-comings inherent upon our 
fragility. Our Lord knows that “ the spirit indeed is willing, 
but the flesh weak 1 . " Let not our faults then cast us down 
nor temptations discourage us. The last instrument that our 
Holy Father marks out is “ never to despair of the mercy of 
God " : Et de Dei misericordia nunquam desperare. Even 
though we only know how to handle the other instruments 
imperfectly, let this one at least never be out of our grasp, 
nunquam. The devil delights, throughout the course of our 
spiritual life, in urging us to sadness, to discouragement, 
because he well knows that when the soul is sad it is led to 
abandon the exercise of good works, and that to its great 
detriment. When therefore a like sadness arises in our heart, 
we may be assured that it comes from the devil or from our 
own pride, and that, if we give way to it, we shall be listening 
to the devil who is so clever at playing upon our pride. 
Could 'a movement of distrust, of despair, come from God ? 
Never, nunquam. Were we to fall into great faults, were we 
to have the unhappiness of living a long time in unfaithfulness, 

1. Matth. xxvi, 41. 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



136 

the Holy Spirit would doubtless urge us to penitence, to 
expiation, to immolation :• St. Benedict exhorts us to weep 
for our past sins and to amend them 1 , but he would also 
stir us up to hope, to confidence in God " rich in mercy 2 . " 
To distrust ? To discouragement ? To despair ? Never. 
As long as we are here below we must never lose confidence : 
because the satisfactions and merits of Christ Jesus are 
infinite, because the Eternal Father has willed to place in 
Him all the treasures of grace and holiness that He destines 
for souls, and these treasures are inexhaustible ; because Jesus 
prays and pleads for us with His Father : Semper vivens ad 
inicrpellandum pro nobis 3 . Our strength is in Him, not in 
ourselves : Omnia possum in eo qui me con for tat. 

" O Lord, let the action of Thy mercy direct our hearts, 
for without Thee we are not able to please Thee " : Dirigat 
corda nostra quaesumus, Domine, tuae miserationis operatio: 
quia tibi sine te placer e non possumus i ! ‘ 

V. 

Praiseworthy though it be ardently to seek God by good 
works and especially by works of the Rule, we must yet be 
forearmed against a certain erroneous conception of 
perfection, which is sometimes to be met with in not very 
enlightened souls. It may happen that these place the whole 
of perfection in the merely outward and material observance. 
Although the word I am going to use is severe, I do not hesi- 
tate to pronounce it : the abovesaid prejudicial idea would 
border upon pharisaism or would risk leading to it and 
that would be a great danger. 

You know what our Divine Saviour, Who is very Truth 
and Goodness, said to His disciples : " Unless your justice 
abound more than that of... the Pharisees, you shall not 
enter into the Kingdom of Heaven G , ” These words are 
truly those of. Christ. He Who would not condemn the 
woman taken in adultery ; Who vouchsafed to speak with 
Idle Samaritan woman and reveal heavenly mysteries to her 

S P 1 ^® h er guilty life • He Who consented to eat with 
the Publicans, socially disqualified as sinners ; Who allowed 
Magdalen to wash His feet and wipe them with the hairs 
of her head ; He Who was so " meek and humble of heart 0 , " 
publicly hurled anathemas at the Pharisees : “ Woe to you... 
hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven against 
men, for yourselves do not enter in 7 . " 


THE INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ” Xgy 

The Pharisees passed in the eyes of the multitude as holv 
personages. They esteemed themselves saints, and made 
all perfection consist in the exactitude of outward observan- 
ces. You know too how their fidelity to the letter and this 
exactitude were so fastidious that the examples \ given of 
their formalism are sometimes ludicrous 1 Not content with 
thus scrupulously keeping the Law of Moses, which already 
constituted a heavy burden, they added thereto a whole 
catalogue of prescriptions of their own invention — what 
our Lord called “ the tradition of men 2 . ” All this was so 
well observed exteriorly that in this respect there was nothin* 
with which to reproach them: impossible to find more 
correct disciples of Moses. Gall to mind the Pharisee whom 
Christ depicts going up to the Temple to pray. What is 
his prayer ? “ My God, I am a man altogether irreproach- 

able ; I fast, I give tithes : Thou canst not find me in 
fault on any point. Thou oughtest to be proud of me 3 . ” 
And in the literal sense, what he said was true : he did 
observe all these things. However, what judgment does Jesus 
pass upon him ? This man went out of the Temple without 
being justified, his heart empty of God’s grace. Why this 
condemnation ? Because the unhappy man glorified himself 
for his good actions and placed all his perfection in merely 
outward observance, without troubling himself about the 
inward dispositions of his heart. Therefore our Lord tells 
us that unless our justice is greater than that of the Pharisees 
we shall have no part in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Do we enter into the deep signification of these words ? 
What is the Christian life ? A list of observances ? In 
nowise. It is the life of Christ within us, and all that Christ 
has appointed to maintain this life in us ; it is the Divine life 
overflowing from the bosom of the Father into Christ Jesus 
and, through Him, into our souls. There is the supernatural 
life in its foundation and at its fountainhead ; and without 
this all the rest is nothing. Are we to understand by this 
that the exterior prescriptions of Christianity are to be 
disdained ? Far from it. Their observance is at once the 
normal condition and the obligatory manifestation of the 
interior life. But the first is the more important, as the 
soul, in man, is more important than the body : the soul is 
spiritual, immortal, created to the image of God ; the body, 
a little earthly clay ; but the soul is only created at the mo- 
ment of being united to the body, and the exercise of its 

Christ in His Mysteries , ch. XI. Some aspects of. the Public Life. — 

2. Marc, vii, 8. — 3, Cf. Luc. xvm, 11-12. 


138 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


faculties depends on the good constitution of the body. In 
the Church of Christ, there are also the soul and the body. 
Following the normal law, it is necessary to belong to the 
body, to the visible Church, and observe her commandments, 
in order to participate in her intimate life, the life of grace ; 
but the Christian life must not be placed principally in the 
outward observance of material ordinances. 

In the same way, the essence of the monastic life does not 
consist in the horarium of our daily life. It may happen 
that a monk succeeds by force of will and energy in 
keeping all the rules, and yet has no monastic spirit, no 
true inner life : there is the body, but not the soul. And in 
fact it is not so rare to find religious whose spiritual progress 
is very slow, although their outward exactitude lends itself 
to no reproach. It is because there is often only self-seeking 
and self-complacency in this exactitude, or because they look 
down on their brethren who do not appear to be so faithful ; 
or else because they put their perfection in the exterior 
observance itself. Now, of themselves these observances are 
small matters : one is worth as much as another 1 . As Christ 
Himself said, John the Baptist drank no wine, and he was 
blamed ; the Son of man ate of what was set before Him, 
and the Pharisees still disapproved of Him, for they were a 
race of " hypocrites a . ’’ 

If it is then somewhat indifferent, in itself, what our exte- 
rior practices be, it does not the less remain that we have 
promised to keep them : hence, this observance, when 
animated by love, is extremely pleasing to God. I say : 

_ animated by love. ’’ It is in the heart, that perfection 
lies ; for love is the supreme law. Christ Jesus " searches 
hearts and He sees that one who says and believes he loves, 
but without proving it by deeds, does not love. But likewise 
one who exteriorly keeps Christ’s words, and does not 
act from love, does not truly keep these words. We must 
join the doing of His word with His love, because His chief 
word and the abridgment of His doctrine is that we must 
love 3 . ” 

The observing of the Rule does not constitute holiness, 
but it constitutes a means of arriving at holiness. You may 
say : Must we not observe all that is prescribed ? Certainly 
we must ; for oftentimes an habitual and wilful infidelity 
upon such or such a point of the Rule — prayer, charity, 
silence, work, — suffices to shackle our progress in the path 


1. See what we have said above p. 59 on the width of St. Benedict ’s views 

?? l?, ls . . matter ‘ — *• Cf. Matth. xi, 18-19 ; Luc. vu. aa-aa a Bossuet, 

Meditations on the Gospel, The Last Supper, 93 111 day. 


THE " INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ” I39 

of perfection. Only, bear this well in mind : — What is 
important in our observance is the inner principle that 
animates us. The Pharisees observed all things exactly but 
it was that they might be seen and applauded by the 
multitude : and this moral deviation utterly spoiled all their 
works. As to the outward observance, kept mathematically, 
but for its own sake and without anything to ennoble it, we 
may at least say that it is in nowise perfection. 

The interior life must be the soul of our exterior fidelity. 
It. must be the result, the fruit and manifestation of the 
faith, confidence and love that govern our heart. The Rule 
is the expression of God’s Will. Now the fulfilling of the 
Rule out of love constitutes fidelity. Fidelity is the most 
precious and delicate flower of love here below. Up above, 
in heaven, love will blossom out into thanksgiving, in delight 
and enjoyment, in the full and entire possession of the 
beloved object ; here, upon earth, it is manifested by a 
generous and constant fidelity to God, despite the obscurity 
of faith, despite trials, difficulties, oppositions. 

After the example of our Divine Model, we ought to give 
ourselves unreservedly, as He gave Himself unreservedly to 
the Father on entering into the world : Ecce venio, “ Behold 
I come... that I should do Thy will " : Ut faciam voluntatem 
fuarn 1 . Each morning; when, after Holy Communion, we 
make but one with Him, let us renew our disposition of 
wishing to belong entirely to Him. 0 Jesus, I wish to live 
by Thy life, through faith and love ; I wish Thy desires to 
be my desires, and, like Thee, out of love for Thy Father, 

I wish to do all that may be pleasing to Thee : I have placed 
“ Thy law in the midst of 'my heart ” : Et legem tuam in medio 
cordis me i 3 . It is pleasing to Thee when I faithfully keep 
the prescriptions of the Christian law. which Thou hast 
established and those of the monastic code which I have 
accepted; as proof of the delicacy of my love for Thee, I wish 
to say as Thou hast said Thyself : Neither a jot nor a tittle 
shall be taken away by me from Thy law ; Iota unum ant 
units apex non praeieribit a lege donee omnia fiant 3 ; grant me 
Thy grace that I may not let the least thing pass that 
could give Thee pleasure, in order that, according to Thine 
own word, being faithful in small things, I may likewise 
become so in great things 4 ; grant above all that I may ever 
act out of love for Thee and for Thy Father : Ut cognoscat 
mundus quia diligo Pattern 6 ; my sole desire is to be able 

i. ?s. xxxix, 8-9. 1-Ieb. x, 559. — 2. Ps. xxxix, 8-9; — j. Mattb. v, 18. — 

4. Cl. Luc. xvi, 10. — 5. Joan, xiv, 31. 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


to say like Thee " I do always the things that please Him ” 
Quia placita sunt ei, facio semper 1 . 

This is the programme that our Lord traced out for the 
Blessed Bonomo, an Italian nun : " Before each of thy actions 
offer all to Me, with thy whole being, asking of Me the help 
and grace to do nothing except for Me : for I am thy End 
thy God, and thy Lord Whom thou oughtest to please 2 . ” 

All things done in love — love being the mainspring of 
all our activity and the guardian of all our fidelity • is not 
this the very formula of perfection ? Love it is that mea- 
sures, in the last resort, the value of all our actions even 
of the most ordinary. 

Thus St. Benedict points out as the first " instrument ” 
the love of God : " In the first place, in primis, to love the 
Lord God with all one’s heart, all one’s soul and all one’s 
strength This is as much as to say : Place love in your 
heart before all things ; let love rule and guide you in all 
your actions ; it is love that is to put in your hands all the 
other mstruments of good works ; it is love that will rive 
rL 1 !, • Ue t0 th ® most insignificant details of your days. 

.1. mgS ’ sa y s Augustine, are little in themselves, but 
they become great through the faithful love with which they 
are done: Quod minimum esi, minimum est; sed in minimis 
t^ULem esse magnum esi 3 . 

Outward observance, sought after for its own sake, without 
the inward love which quickens it, is a formal show — even 
a Pharisaical show. An interior love pretending to 
dispense with the exterior faithfulness which is its fruit, 
would be an illusion, for our Lord- tells us that he who loves 
Him keeps His commandments 4 . And this is true of the 

onas ic 1 e as it is of the Christian life. Christ Jesus says 
^ ou P r ° test that you love Me ? It is for My Name’s 

Thpn ir 1 teft all things : Propter nomen meum 5 ? 

Then keep faithfully the least points of your Rule. 

Ihe ideal we ought to have in view is the exactitude of 
A n °t s^upje. nor anxiety never to make a mistake, 
,n finV V1 - h belng ab . le t0 sa T : " I will never be found 
tLt fhi'- hC r? 15 P fldc in this - It is from the heart 
seek Spnag s : and if you possess it, you rill 

Duritv nf ' < y ° Ve , al ! y° u bave to do with the greatest 
purity of intention, and the greatest care possible. Universa 

p. 54^ 0 a Read I abo 9 v<^all%^r;^ ! ^^' B< I” 0 7 , ?' m ° n ' a!e bin/dictine by D. du Bourg, 
XXVII Of the part -H^wthShL* S f eclal , Grac ' of S> Meohtilde, chapter 
~3.Dc doclrina chrislizZ* f rv T” un i Ui io the Heart °t Goi ‘ 

'* Do small things as well Vt* C lt, x8 ' ^ as 1 not R asca l who wrote : 

Who does them n us ? ” f J™ t ^ sa ^ of 0le “ajesty of Jesus Christ 

4 . juau. xiv, si. — 5 . Matth. xix, 29 . 


Hi 


THE " INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ’’ 


I4I 

custodire .. . amore Christi 1 : St. Benedict says, the monk ought 
to be faithful in all things " for the love of Christ. ” 

Let us take care then not to content ourselves with 
regulating the outward behaviour ; God must have His own 
spectacle ; that is to say, a heart which seeks Him in 
secret 2 . And this is what our great Patriarch asks of us : 
that we should seek God in the sincerity of our hearts : 

Si revera Deum quaerit 3 . ' 

VI. ! 

if 

j 

In this exactitude which is born of love there is something j 

easy, wide, free, lovable, joyous. On the contrary, if a I 

monk places all his perfection in merely outward observance, j 

it often happens that, when even without any fault of his 
own, he is unable to carry out such or such a prescription 
he is troubled and upset ; he imagines that his spiritual edifice 
is about to crumble into ruins, and that perfection is not 
for him. If this happens repeatedly he gets discouraged, and 
this sense of discouragement is easily to be understood, since, 
for him, all is summed up and made to consist in outward 
observance. 

On account of this same false principle, it will sometimes 
occur that he fails in charity towards his brethren and 
creates friction. Having to choose between the observance 
and an accidental occasion of helping someone, he will not 
hesitate : " The observance before everything 1 ” This is 
servitude to the " letter ", with its aridity and hardness. 

See how the Pharisees reproached our Divine Saviour for 
healing the sick on the Sabbath day 4 : under the pretext that 
the Sabbath was a day of rest 6 , they even reproached the 
disciples because, being hungry, they rubbed the ears of com 
in their hands to eat. 

Opposed to this, one who loves Christ Jesus and does all 
for love, enjoys, at the same time, a great liberty in regard 
to observances. In fact, not placing his perfection prin- 
cipally in material practices, he does not seek them for them- 
selves ; and when, in consequence of some circumstance, he 
is prevented from accomplishing them, he is not unduly 
troubled, because he is not attached to them. And if, as 
may happen, he sees one of his brethren in need, he does not 
hesitate, first of all to help his brother, even if such or such 
a prescription — we are supposing, of course, that it does 
not oblige under sin — has to be put aside. Some might 

x.RulfVch. vii. — 2. Bossuet, Meditations upon the Gospel, The Sermon 
on the Mount, 20 th day. — 3. Rule, ch. lviil — 4. Luc.vi,ii. — 5.Matth.xii,2. 



142 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

say as the Pharisees said of Jesus : " This man is not of 
God, who keepeth not the sabbath 1 ;” but this is taking 
scandal in a Pharisaical spirit to which no attention must 
be paid. 

Let us learn by this that we ought not generally to make 
ourselves the judges of how our brethren observe the Rule 
There are some who, outwardly, may appear less correct 
than others, yet whose inner life is more intense. The ideal 
would be doubtless that there should be nothing to blame 
in them, but it is not for us to set ourselves up as censors 
of our brethren. Let us not then be Pharisees ; lest thinking 
so much of being a monk, it may befall that one is no longer 
either Christian, or human, and fails in the great natural 
precept of charity. 

See how well these truths were understood by our great 
Lawgiver. He assuredly esteemed the monastic observances 
which after a long experience he had himself laid down. 
But none the less he knew how to make them cede to a 
higher motive. When for example on a fast day a guest 
arnyes, St. Benedict wishes that, out of humanity and charity 
tor tins guest, the prior who receives him, shall break his 
fast Jejunium a priore frangatnr propter hospilem a . A 
Pharisee would not have acted thus : he would have fasted 
and... made his guest fast ! But our Holy Father " full of 
the spirit of all the just 3 , " places perfection before all 
things m chanty, whether it goes directly to God, or is 
mimifested to Christ in the person of the neighbour. 

ou will not mistake my meaning. I in nowise mean 
to sanction failings in the observance, nor to excuse negli- 
gences, the letting things go ; far from that ; I only want 
y°Y° appreciate each thing at its true value. Never forget 
.ft 7® r y source °f the value of our deeds is in our oneness 
wi h Chnst Jesus by grace, in the love wherewith we perform 
our actions. To this end, we must, as our Holy Father 
says direct our intention towards God before each good 
work that we undertake, with great intensity of faith and ■ 
love . (Jmdqind agendum inchoas bonum, ab eo per fid instan- 
tisswui oratione dcposcas 4 . 


What we have undertaken for God and put under His 
pro ec ion, we must never, by our own fault, cease to pursue, 
is on y at the cost of persevering faithfulness, says 


I. Joan. IX, 16.-2. Rule, ch. 
4. Prologue of the Rule. 


tin. — 3. s. Greg. Dialog. L. n, c. vm. — 


•*THE INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS 


*43 

* c sh ” u dese "° th0 reward pro ” ised *° 

J^tSPS? the V,rtae '>“* and 

We must be careful to distinguish this virtue from the 
gitt of final perseverance by which we " die in the Lord • " 
this gift is purely gratuitous, and, says the Council of Trent 

none can, with absolute certitude, be assured that it will 
be granted to him 1 . . 

However, the Holy Council adds, " we ought to have 
and to keep the most lively confidence in God’s help, for 
God is all-powerful to finish in us the good that He has begun 
unless we ourselves be unfaithful to grace ” : Nisi ipsi illiu’s 
gratiae defuermt 2 . 

The means then given to us in order that we may count 
upon this infinitely precious gift, the gift exceeding all others, 
is daily fidelity ; and we shall carry out well and to its end 
the great work of our whole life, if we carry out well and to 
its end each work that we undertake for God : this is the 
object of the virtue of perseverance. 

, 3 ? lom ? T s „ 3 mo . st justly links this virtue to the virtue of 
fortitude. What indeed is fortitude ? It is a disposition 
of steadfastness which inclines the soul to support valiantly 
all evils, even the worst and most continuous, rather than 
forsake good ; pushed t6 the supreme degree, fortitude goes 
so far as to endure martyrdom. 

This virtue of fortitude is particularly required by cenobites 
hvmg together in a monastery. It seems truly as if Provi- 
dence, in instituting cloisters, had, besides its principal 
design, a secondary one. The principal design is to create 
the coenobitarum fortissimum genus 4 , the secondary design 
to receive now and then weak souls who rely upon the 
strong. Thus in a forest of giant trees, beautiful and power- 
ful, shrubs are not completely excluded from the soil where 
the fonner flourish. Here and there shrubs live in the shade 
of their great elders and protectors, but they do not make 
the forest. St. Benedict does not intend to discourage weak 
souls, but it is chiefly to the ambition of the strong that he 
opens the avenues to perfection. It is in conformity with 
the spirit of the great Patriarch that the abbot does not 
always repulse a postulant who avows his fears in face of the 
temptations of the world and declares that one of the reasons 
that _ brings him to the cloister is the desire of security, 
provided that this postulant “ truly seeks God, " and that 

i. Sess. vi, c, 13. — 2. Ibid. — 3. n-it, q. cxxxvi, a. 2. — 4. Rule, ch. 1. 


144 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



there is an underlying seriousness in his character. But the 
holy Lawgiver addresses himself above all to resolute souls- 
they alone are able to attain these " summits of virtute " • 
cuhnina virtulum ', indicated by St. Benedict. 

This in fact is because fortitude is not only the principu? of 
" aggression ” aggredi, but it is likewise that of “ endurance ” 
sttsiinere ; and as this requires more steadfastness ol soul than 
the former, it constitutes, says St. Thomas, the principal 
act of the virtue ol fortitude : Prineipalior actus tortitudinis 
est snstinere 2 . Now, the religious life, faithfully led in the 
cloister, at once demands and teaches this endurance ; of its 
nature, it tends to establish in the soul a steadfastness which 
can even go so far as to be heroic, and this so much the 
more real in that it is the more hidden. 

This is because, on the one hand, the changeableness of 
our nature is extreme, and, in the long run, the life tells 
on the firmest will. On the other hand, the life led in 
community offers nothing to poor nature that can flatter 
or distract it. Daily to bear generously and in the obscurity 
0 fArili , the monotony inherent to the claustral life, 
stability m the same place, the accomplishment of the 
same ever repeated exercises, however minute they may be 
the yoke ol obedience, above all when it goes against or 
o fers violence to nature ; and that, as St. Benedict wishes, 

• 'T, “ Patience, in silence, without growing weary or giving 
m . Tacita conscientia patientiam ampleclatur et sustinens 
tion lussescat vel discedat i . Daily to acquit oneself carefully 
of the task assigned by obedience, however humble hidden 
from sight, or thankless it may be, without that strong 
incentive to human activity which is the struggle against 
exterior obstacles, without seeking compensation from crea- 
tures, without encountering those distractions those diver- 
sions, so frequent m the world, which break the uniformity 
of occupations, — all this requires, of the soul singular 
endurance, self-mastery and firmness 5 . 

We understand God’s saying in Holy Scripture : “ The 

VS ~°andTca^ fSl 

tL T 5 -, ? ne d *y Mabillon was asked to reveal 

testily to the rvXwtin 115 ’ , to ^ ls l vay °f thinking would manifest or 

Congregation 1 o^S^M-nir °n r? °,T tho ™ 5t cmi " 0Ht religious of the 
lines but thev Llau ^ e . War 5 in * This great monk wrote but two 

M wtin profo,,nd truth : " I know nothing of Dom 

life hoIdsOor me tlO n7 0ne 1 ! as s “ n - ‘ ,ut , llis constant and uniformly good 
6,7 , 38 me the place of a miracle. " Vic dc D. Claude Marlin, Tours 


THE " INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS 


145 , 

patient man is better than the valiant : and he that ruleth 
his spirit, than he that taketh cities ” ; Melior est patiens J 

viro forti, et qm dommatur ammo suo expugnatore urbittm 1 ■ i 

we understand why St. Benedict qualifies 6 disobedience « ! 

sloth and the weapon of obedience which he Gives to 1 

his disciples as strongly tempered 5 ," and it is enough 

t0 u r f a h - u W de S ree ° f humility in order to see to 

what heights of heroic endurance he invites his sons to 1 

climb I 

H faithf “ Uy . ^served, the Rule becomes a principle I 

of fortitude ; m disciplining the will, it tempers it as steel is 
tempered ; directing the will, it increases its energies tenfold I 

and saves it from dispersing them 5 . It has become a common- j 

place to speak of the patience of true monks at work, of their 

holy pertinacity and faithfulness to their task 6 . They have j 

given the example of conscientious and persevering toil under I 

every form. Thus they became, in the middle ages, the ' 

pioneers of Christian civilisation in Europe 7 . Would such J 

results have been possible if the cloisters had only contained ; 

feeble souls ? Assuredly not. if 

We are not then astonished that the great monks showed | 

themselves to be strong souls. Where, if not in the cloister, j 

did holy missionaries like Boniface and Adalbert find the 
secret of crowning with martyrdom a long apostolic life and 
mcessant labours ? Where did such as Anselm, Gregory VII 
ai ? , u US ^7^ °bt a m that wonderful steadfastness of soul 
which sustained them in their memorable conflicts for the 
iberty of the Church ?■ Again it was in the cloister. It 1 

was the common life of the cloister that tried and moulded j 

their souls, strengthened their characters and made them so 
intrepid and magnanimous that no danger affrighted them, 
no obstacle held them back, who, according to the noble 
saying of Gregory VII himself to the monks of Cluny, “ never i 

bent beneath the domination of the princes si this world and j 

remained the courageous and submissive defenders of St. Pe- 
a ?r d kis Church... Monks and abbots have not failed 
this Holy Church their Mother. ” 

It i§ this daily endurance in the common life, this toilsome 

? 2 : ~ 2 : Prologue of the Rule. — 3. Ibid. — 4. It is 
e j at m t ^ us sm Sle paragraph the great Patriarch heaps up terms 
twk^WH 1 endurance : once the words sufferre, non disccderc, non lasses cere ; 
snKilLt ?. w ° rd palladia and four times that of sustinere. — 5. Read on this 
et L p-i ^ autlful P a ff s of Buathier, in Le Sacrifice, ch. XVI, Le Sacrifice 
maniwlr , .-The holy Lawgiver wars against every form and 
he will n t,on °' lnstabdity, versatility, caprice. See for example, ch. -xi.vni; 
bv "u, Ve .“ e . mottk s t0 reat l P cr ordinem ex integro the books given them 
Vafin'inidi ° l t0 read , during Lent. — 7. Cf. Berliire, L. c., ch. 11 et ill, 
poslolal monastique; Vceuvre civilisatrice . 



146 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

fidelity, that St. Benedict requires of us in this workshop 
where he distributes our tasks and provides us with the 
instruments of our sanctification. It is " day and night " 
die nocluquc, that is to say "unceasingly”, inccssabiliter 1 
that he would have us use these instruments, without being 
wearied by the length of the task, without being discouraged 
by our want of success, without letting ourselves be cast 
down by our failures. 

The virtue of fortitude constantly exercised, preserved and 
sustained until our last day constitutes perseverance. And 
it is to acquire this that our great Patriarch exhorts us so 
explicitly when he tells us never to depart from the teaching 
of the Divine Master, but to persevere in His teaching in 
the monastery until death : A b ipsius nunquam magisterio 
discedentes, in ejus doctrina usque ad mortem in monasterio 
perseverantes 2 . 

In order to quicken and sustain us in the practice of 
endurance, our Holy Father places the Divine Ideal before 
our eyes ; he appeals to the supreme motive : the love of 
Christ Jesus : ‘ That we may by patience share in the suffer- 
mgs of Christ Passionibus Christi per patientiam 
parhcipemur 3 . 

Meed it is to Christ Jesus we must cleave. We cannot 
be His disciples if, having put our hand to the plough, we 
look back and shirk the weary labour. Only he who 
perseveres unto death shall be saved : Qui perseveraverit usque 
in finem Inc salvus eril 5 . Christ Jesus prepares a place in 
His Kingdom only for those yfho have continued with Him 
in trial . Cos estis qui permansistis mecnm in tentationibus 
Ttieis, ct ego dispono vobis tegnufti*, 

• to these grave words of teaching from the 

infallible Truth. Let us ask God daily, for the gift of final 
perseverance, and repeat the prayer that the Church puts 
upon our lips each day at Holy Mass : " O Lord, establish 
our days in Ihy peace, deliver us from eternal damnation, 
and vouchsafe to number us in the flock of Thy elect 7 . " 
Make us ever adhere to Thy commandments and never 
suffer us to be separated from Thee 8 . ” 

If we are faithful, despite temptations and difficulties, the 
ay of reward promised by God will come for us ; this is 
the assurance the great Patriarch gives • us in ending this 
chapter on The Instruments of Good Works ” : Ilia merces 
notns a Domino recomp ensabitur quam ipse promisit. If we 

, ’ S h 'J, V ' ~ Prologue of the Rule. — 3. Ibid. — 4. Life, ix, fie.— 

before the CoiiAunion. ' XX “* 28 ' 29 ' ~ 7 ' Canon of the Mass - — 8 - Pra yer 


THE " INSTRUMENTS OF GOOD WORKS ” 147 

have had that constant application which love brings to 
the perfect fulfilment of our Heavenly Father’s wishes if 
we have done " always the things that please Him ” Quae 
placita sunt ei facio semper 1 , we shall certainly receive the 
magnificent reward promised in these words by Him Who 
is Faithfulness itself: "Well done, good and faithful servant: 
because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I wili 
place thee over many things : enter thou into the joy of thy 
Lord 2 . " 

Each Saint on entering into Heaven hears these blessed 
words that form the welcome he receives from Christ Jesus. 
And what are these things in which Our Lord gives him a 
share ? God Himself, in His Trinity and His perfections ; 
and, with God, all spiritual good. The soul will be like unto 
God for it will " see Him as He is ” : Similes ei erimus, 
quoniam videbimus earn sicuti est. 

Through this ineffable vision, which succeeds to faith, the 
soul will be fixed in God, and will find in Him the Divine 
stability ; it will for ever be knit in a perfect embrace, and 
without the fear of ever losing Him, to the Supreme and 
Immutable Good: Participatio incommutabilis boni z . 

Whilst waiting till the splendours of eternal light shine 
before our purified sight, let us often repeat this prayer of 
the Church which well epitomises the different points of 
this conference : “ 0 God, Who in Thy love dost restore 
the beauty of innocence, direct towards Thee the hearts of 
Thy servants j that the fervour of love which is born of 
Thy Spirit may make them steadfast in faith, and faithful 
in practising Thy Law " : Deus innocenliae restitutor el 
amator, dirige ad te tuorum corda servorum: ut spiritus 
tui fervore conccpto, el in fide inveniantur stabiles, el 

IN OPERE EFFICACES 4 . 

i. Joan, viii, 29. — 2. Matth. xxv, 21. — 3. S. Aug. Ejiisl. ad Honoral. 
cxl, 31. — 4. Fcria iv. post Dominic. II Quadrages. 



A. — THE WAT OF ABNEGATION 
(Reliquimua omnia) 

VIII. — COMPUNCTION OF HEART. 

Summary. — The “ return to God " is only possible on condition of 
first removing the obstacles opposed to it. — I. Compunction, 
most efficacious means of putting away sin ; it is the habitual 
sense of contrition. — II. What the Saints of the Church 
think of this disposition. — III. Far from being incompatible 
with confidence and complacency in God, compunction 
strengthens them. — IV. It makes us strong against tempta- 
tion. — V. How we ought to resist temptation. — VI. Means 
of acquiring compunction : prayer, frequent contemplation of 
the sufferings of Jesus. 

F rom the first lines of the Prologue of the Rule, 
St. Benedict, addressing himself to the soul, presents 
the monastic life as " a returning to God ” : Ut ad 
Eum redeas a quo recesseras. You know the reason of this : 
it is that sin has, from our birth, turned us away from God : 
Eratis longe 1 , says St. Paul. By sin, the soul turns away 
from God, the Infinite and Immutable Good, to give itself 
to the creature, which is but transitory good; this is the 
definition that St. Thomas gives of sin : Aversio ab 
incommuiabili bono el conversio ad commulabile bonum a . If 
then we wish to seek God sincerely, ” we must sever all 
inordinate attachment to the creature in order to turn 
en tirely to God. This is what St. Benedict calls “ conversion 
V cniens quis ad conversionem 3 . 

Our holy Father in speaking of " conversion ” does not' 
here attach to the word the very particular and precise 
meanmg that we commonly give to it, but he views as a 
whole the actions whereby the soul, in turning away from 
sm and setting itself free from the creature and every human 
motive, exerts all its powers to remove the obstacles that 
hinder it from going to God and seeking Him alone. 
Between sin and God there is, as you know, absolute 

RuVe.^lvm. I3 ' ~ *’ I ' 11 ’ q ' LXXXVn ' a - 4 aQd «-H, q. cLXii, a. 6.-3* 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART ! 4g 

incompatibility ; there is not, says St. Paul, any possible 
concord between Christ and Belial, the father of sm* And 
therefore to imagine that God will allow Himself to be found 
by us, will give Himself to us without oux having to leave 
sin is to be under an illusion \ and this illusion, more frequent 
than we think, is dangerous. We should ardently desire the 
Divine Word to be united to us ; but this desire should be 
effectual and urge us to destroy all that is ooposed in us 
to this, union. There are some minds that find admirable 
as indeed it is what they call the " positive side” 
of the spiritual life : love, prayer, contemplation, union with 
God, but forget that all this is only to be found with certainty 
in a soul purified from all sin, from all evil habits, and that 
constantly tends, by a life of generous vigilance, to abate the 
sources of sin and imperfection. The spiritual edifice is very 
fragile when it is not based upon the constant flight from 
sin, for it is built upon sand. 

When one sees the terrible examples of those who abandon 
their priesthood, of those religious who " make the angels 
weep “, one asks oneself : “ How can these things be 
possible ? Whence come these falls ? Do these disasters 
come about all at once ? ” No ; these are not sudden 
falls ; it is often necessary to go a long way back to trace the 
beginning of them. The foundations of the house were long 
since undermined by pride, self-love, presumption, sensuality, 
the lack of the fear of God. At a given moment, a great 
wind of temptation arose which shook the edifice and 
overthrew it. 

Thus St. Benedict is very careful to point out to us the 
necessity of working at personal self-conquest, the logical 
preliminary to all . development, to all preservation of the 
divine life in the soul. And because in us these roots of 
sin, which are the triple concupiscence of the eyes, of the 
flesh and of the pride of life, are never entirely destroyed, 
this work never completely ceases ; although in the measure 
that it advances, the soul, gaining spiritual liberty, moves 
more at ease, it still must never renounce vigilance. 

The holy Legislator therefore wishes this work to become 
the object of a promise that obliges us throughout life. 
This is the meaning of the second of our vows, the vow 
of " conversion of manners ” : Promitto... conversionem 
morum meorum 3 . By this vow we are bound to tend to 

i. II Cor. vi, 15. — 2. Cf. Isa. xxxui, 7. — 3. Cf. Rule, ch. lviii. We do 
not take it upon ourselves to affirm anything as to the true reading of the word 
conversio or conversatio, but we take the expression conversio morum In the 
traditional sense. 


i5o 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART 


perfection, that is to say to union, through love, with God 
and His holy will. 

There are obstacles that prevent this union : hence the 
seeking after perfection requires of us that we should first 
remove these obstacles from our path. St. Benedict is very 
explicit on, this point ; he puts within our hands the " in- 
struments ” destined to root out vices : “ Not to give way 
to anger; not to harbour a desire of revenge ; not to foster 
guile in one’s heart ; not to give marks of affection that 
are not sincere ; not to return evil for good ; to keep one’s 
mouth from evil and wicked words *, ” etc. He likewise 
wishes that we should daily confess to God in prayer, with 
tears and sighs, our past sins, and amend them for the time 
to come ” : De ipsis malis ds cetcro cmendare 

Then, furthermore, he declares that it is only when the 
soul is purified from vice and sin, that the Holy Spirit will 
fully act within it, and perfect love reign as the principle 
of its life 3 . 

You see that this work of destroying sin and attachment 
to sin is necessary, if we wish to go to God and find Him 
alone. Doubtless, we shall not give ourselves up to this 
labour for the sake of the labour itself ; we shall embrace 
it as a condition of life, as the means for the development 
and preservation of divine union within us. Let us then 
examine, with some detail, how we ought to devote our- 
selves to it. It will be apparent that one of the best ways 
of succeeding in it is compunction of heart ; — we shall 
see what the saints and the Church think of this sense of 
compunction ; — the precious advantages that it brings to 
the soul ; finally, the sources that foster it. 

I. 

The essential obstacle to divine union is mortal sin, while 
deliberate venial sin is opposed to all progress. 

By mortal sin the soul turns away entirely from God in 
order to make the creature its end ; separation from God is 
radical, and union is destroyed. This is so true that if death 
surprises the soul in this state it is forever fixed in this 
separation from God: "Depart from Me, ye cursed": 
/ iscedite a me ma.led.icti 1 . The Heavenly Father does 
not recognise the likeness of His Son in the sinner, who is 
therefore eternally excluded from the inheritance. As you 
know, it is by perfect contrition and the Sacrament of 

i. Rule, cli. IV. — Z. Ibid. — 3 . Ibid, cli. VII. — 4. Mattli. xxv, 4. 


15 1 

Penance that this state is destroyed ; in the Sacrament, 
Christ’s infinite merits are applied to the soul to purify it 
from its sins. 

There is no need to have recourse to the Sacrament of 
Penance for venial sins, although it is an excellent thing to 
do so. 

An act of charity, a fervent Communion, suffices to blot 
out venial sins provided one has no attachment to them, 
but, in formulating this last condition, we set forth a truth 
which, in the spiritual life, has great importance. 

Indeed when it is a question of perfection, we must care- 
fully distinguish between venial sin and venial sin. A venial 
sin, a sin of surprise, which escapes us from weakness, 
cannot keep us back in our seeking after God ; we rise from 
it with humility, and find in the remembrance of it a new 
stimulus for loving God the more. But bear this well in 
mind, it is quite otherwise with, venial sin, habitual or fully 
deliberate. When a soul regularly commits deliberate venial 
sins, when it coolly consents without remorse, to wilful and 
habitual infidelities against the Rule, even though the Rule 
does not oblige under sin, it is impossible for this soul to 
make true and constant progress in perfection. It is not 
our weaknesses, our infirmities of body or mind that impede 
the action of grace ; God knows our misery and remembers 
that we are but dust. But it is a disposition that, so to 
speak, paralyses God's action within us ; it is the attachment 
to our own judgment and self-love, which is the most fruitful 
source of our infidelities and deliberate faults. A few days 
before His blessed Passion our Divine Saviour beholding 
Jerusalem began to weep over the city: Flevit super illam 1 . 
" How often would I have gathered together thy children... 
and thou wouldst not ” : Et nolidsti". Weigh well this 
word : noluisti. When our Lord meets with resistance, even 
in small matters, He feels, so to speak, the powerlessness of 
His work in the soul. Why is this ? Because this soul 
fosters habits which form and maintain obstacles to Divine 
union. God would communicate Himself, but these barriers 
prevent the fulness of His action ; He finds no response to 
His Divine advances ; the soul, day by day says " no ” to 
the inspirations of the Holy Spirit Who urges it to obedience, 
humility, charity and self-forgetfulness. It is then impossible 
for it to make any real progress. 

Not only does this soul no longer mount towards God, 
but it is much to be feared that it will fall into grave sins. 

x. Luc. xix, .41. — 2. Matth. xxm, 37. 



152 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

The above mentioned venial sins are the first step towards 
the severance of divine union. There is no longer, in such 
souls, enough vigour to resist temptation. The Holy Spirit 
ends by being silent when He is " grieved, ” — it is St. Paul's 
word 1 — by wilful resistance ; and simply a shock is often 
enough to cause the soul to fall into a mortal sin ; experience 
abundantly proves this. 

This state of tepidity is particularly dangerous when it 
concerns sins of the mind, pride, disobedience ; it places as 
it were a wall between God and us ; and as God is the source 
of all our perfection, the soul that closes itself to the divine 
action shuts itself out from all progress. 


One of the best means of avoiding this perilous state is 
to cultivate compunction of heart. 

For us, who are bound to seek perfection, this point is 
of extreme' importance. If so many souls make little progress 
in the love of God ; if there are so many who easily accomo- 
date themselves — alas for them ! — to venial sin and 
deliberate infidelities, it is because they are not touched 
with compunction. What then is compunction ? 

It is an abiding state of habitual contrition. Here is a 
good man who has given way to a grievous fault ; this un- 
happily can befall, for in the world of souls there are abysses 
of weakness as there are heights of holiness. The Divine 
Mercy gives this man the grace of rising again ; he confesses 
his sin with deep and true repentance. It is quite evident 
that at the moment When he grieves so sincerely at having 
committed this fault he will not go and commit it anew, 
hook at the Prodigal Son on his return to his father's 
ol !? e ' Ho we picture him taking careless, free and easy airs, 
as if Ue had been always faithful. No, indeed. You may 
say : has not his father forgiven him everything ? Certainly 
e ,- as ’ le bas received his son with open arms without 
t an / r ,?P roacb - He did not say : “ You are a misera- 
“ , e cl) * , no - he pressed him to his heart. And his 
sons return has even given the father such joy that he pre- 

Forriven gre TL feaSt j 0r the All is forgotten, all is 

ofX mPr? 6 conduct mf the prodigal’s father is the image 

Drodheaf now ,° f ? ur f Hea ™ly Father. But as for the 
attitude ? w he 1S f ? rglven ’ what are his feelings and 
tte^ame th^I, 1,0 doubt but that they are 

SLelf down ii bad when, full of repentance, he threw 
hrm^lf down at his father's feet : " Father, I have sin- 
Epa. iv, 30. 


i 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART 153 

ned against you, I am not worthy to be called your son ; 
treat me like the last of your servants. ” We may be 
certain that during the rejoicings with which his return was 
celebrated, those were his predominant dispositions. And 
if later the sense of contrition is less intense, it is never 
altogether lost, even after the boy has retaken for qve r 
his former place in the paternal home. How many times 
he must have said to his father : “ I know you have forgiven 
me everything, but I can never weary of repeating with 
gratitude how much I regret having offended you, how much 
I want to make up, by greater fidelity, for the hours I have 
lost and for my forgetfulness of you. ” 

Such should be the sentiment of a soul that has offended 
God, despised His perfections, and brought its share to the 
sufferings of Christ Jesus. 

Let us now suppose in this soul no longer an isolated, act 
of repentance, but the habitual state of contrition : it is almost 
impossible for this soul to fall anew into a deliberate sin. 
It is established in a disposition which, essentially, makes it 
repulse sin. The spirit of compunction is precisely the sense 
of contrition reigning in an abiding manner in the soul. 
It constitutes the soul in the habitual state of hatred against 
sin ; by the interior movements that it provokes, it is of 
sovereign efficacy in preserving the soul from temptation. 
Between the spirit of compunction and sin, there is irreducible 
incompatibility : compunction of heart renders the soul firm 
in its horror of evil and love of God. Thus St. Bernard more 
than once uses the term “ compunction ” instead of " per- 
fection. ” So much does the sense of compunction, when 
it is real, keep one from offending God. 

II. 

We cannot help being struck by the fact that the spiri- 
tuality of past times communicated a singular character of 
stability to its adepts. Whilst taking inevitable exceptions 
into account, it is indeed to be remarked that the interior 
life of the monks of old, who were sometimes recruited from 
a much rougher class of society than ours, rapidly attained 
a great degree of stability, while with many souls of our 
days — even religious souls consecrated to God — the 
spiritual life is of appalling instability. The fluctuations 
to which it is subject are countless ; and its inward ascensions 
are unceasingly meeting with opposition to such a point 
that all progress may be compromised. 

The reason of this vacillation is most often to be found 



154 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


in the lack of compunction. There is no surer means of 
rendering the spiritual life firm and steadfast than to im- 
pregnate it with the spirit of compunction. 

Yet it seems that, speaking generally, modern authors do 
not insist as much on this subject 1 as did ancient ascetic 
writers who are never weary of dilating on the importance 
of compunction, for spiritual progress ; and we see the great- 
est saints constantly cultivating and recommending this 
disposition of soul. 

« You know, ” said St. Paul to the Ephesians, " from 
the first day that I came into Asia, in what manner I have 
been with you, for all the time, serving the Lord with all 
humility and with tears 2 . ” It was because he remembered 
how he once 'persecuted the Church of God 3 . 

He does not fear to recall to his disciple Timothy how he 
" was a blasphemer, and a persecutor and contumelious ; " 
he declares himself the chief of sinners. And he adds : 
" But for this cause have I obtained mercy, that in me first 
Christ Jesus might shew forth all patience, for the information 
of them that shall believe in Him unto life everlasting. ’’ 
And the Apostle, remembering this infinite mercy towards 
him, cries out in gratitude : " Now to the King of ages, 
immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for 
ever and ever 4 ! " 


It was another " convert ” the object of similar mercy, 
Augustine, who wrote 6 : “ To speak much when praying is 
to do a necessary thing with superfluous words. To pray 
much is to knock for a long time with the movements of the 
heart at the door of Him to Whom we pray ; prayer, in fact, 
consists more in sighs and tears than in grand discourses 
and many words. God puts our tears in His sight ; our 
sighs are not ignored by Him Who created all things by 
His word, and has no need of our human words. ” 
u Our holy Father echoes the words of the great Doctor. 
“ If anyone desire to pray in private, let him do so quietly,... 
with tears and fervour of heart 6 . ” Again he says : “ Let 
us remember that not for our much speaking, but for our 
purity of heart and tears of compunction shall we be heard ” : 
Non in multiloquor, sed in puritate cordis ct compunctionc 
lacrymarum nos exaudiri sciamus 7 . Certainly our great 
Patriarch does not affirm this trutii without deep conviction 
and, I dare to. say, an experimental conviction. Look too 
at this portrait of a perfect monk that he draws for us 


fJ'sfr~T V Act r ; a ‘ h f R ^ ber : G,0 Sl\. itt »««««. ch. xix, Abiding sorrow 

Eoist cxxx Vh V * l ?,' A Phll, P' 6 - — +• I Tim. i, 13 seq. — 5. 
i-pist. cxxx, ch. X. — 6. Rule, ch. lii. — 7. Ibid. cli. xx. H 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART 155 

when he comes to the I2 ,s degree of humility : this monk, 
he says, has reached the point where the perfection of charity 
and divine union are about to be realised : Mox ad caritatem 
Dei perveniet illam, quae perjecta foras mittet timorem L And 
what is this monk’s attitude ? He considers himself un- 
worthy, on account of his sins, to appear before God. 

This is truly what all holy souls feel. A lady of high 
rank, who was converted after having lived in vanity and 
luxury, wrote to St. Gregory that she would give him no 
peace until he had assured her in the name of God that 
her sins were forgiven. The holy Pontiff, full of the spirit 
of the Rule, answered her that her request was as difficult 
as it was detrimental : difficult, because he did not esteem 
himself worthy of having revelations ; detrimental also for 
this soul, as it was in the interest of her salvation that 
she should not be assured of forgiveness : [with an absolute 
certainty that excluded all doubt and cast away all fear] 
until the last moment of her life, when she would no longer be 
in a state to weep for her faults and to deplore them in God’s 
sight ; until, this last hour came, she ought ever to live in 
compunction and not to let a day pass without washing 
away her stains with her tears 2 . See our St. Gertrude, 
that lily of purity. She said to our Lord with the deepest 
self-abasement : “ The greatest miracle in my eyes, Lord, is 
that the earth can bear such a worthless sinner as I am 3 . ” 
St. Teresa, formed to perfection by our Lord Himself, had 
placed under her eyes in her oratory, in order to make it 
as it were the refrain of her prayer, this text of the Psaljnist : 
Non inlres, Domino, in judicium cum servo luo *. It is neither 
an exclamation of love, nor an act of sublime praise that 
we hear from this seraphic soul, who is declared by her 
historians never to have sinned mortally, but it is a cry of 
compunction : " Enter not, 0 Lord, into judgment with Thy 
servant 6 . ” St. Catherine of Siena did not cease to implore 
divine mercy ; she always ended her prayers with this in- 
vocation : Peccavi, Domine, miserere mei : “ Have pity upon 
me, 0 Lord, for I have sinned °. ” 

i. Rule, ch. vn. — 2. Epistolae, Lib. vii, cf. 25. — 3. The Herald of Divine 
Love, Book I, ch. xn. — 4. Ps. cxlii, 2. — 5. Life of St Teresa, according to 
the Bollandists. Vol. II, ch. xi. — 6. Drane, Life of S' Catherine of Siena. 
1-1 Part. ch. iv. We know that S 1 Catherine has in her Dialogue a whole 
treatise on tears. Bl. Raymund of Capua relates, that marvelling at the works 
of Catherine, he desired to have an undeniable proof that they came from 
God. The inspiration came to him to ask the Saint to obtain for him from the 
Lord an extraordinary contrition for his sins, for, he added, no one can. have 
this contrition unless it comes from the Holy Ghost, and a like contrition is 
a great sign of God’s grace. ” We know how S l Catherine obtained ” a buU 



X56 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

With all these souls, it was not a question of isolated 
acts and transitory impulses. The words we have repeated 
were but the outward manifestation of an inward abiding 
sense of compunction eager to find outlet. 

This habitual sense of compunction is so precious that, 
according to St. Teresa, souls that are the most forestalled 
with divine favours are the most filled with it. Speaking 
of souls that have reached the sixth mansion of the interior 
castle, she puts them on their guard against forgetfulness of 
their faults : " Souls to whom God has granted these graces 
will understand what I say, ” she writes... “ Sorrow for 
sin increases in proportion to the divine grace received, 
and I believe will never quit us until we come to the land 
where nothing can grieve us any more... A soul so advanced 
as that we speak of does not think of the punishment threat- 
ening its offences, but of its great ingratitude towards Him 
to Whom it owes so much, and Who so justly deserves that 
it should serve Him; for the sublime mysteries revealed have 
taught it much about the greatness of God. The soul 
wonders at its former temerity and weeps over its irreverence; 
, its foolishness in the past seems a madness which it never 
ceases to lament as it remembers for what vile things it 
forsook so great a Sovereign. The thoughts dwell on this 
more than on the favours received, which... are so powerful 
that they seem to rush through the soul like a strong, swift 
river. The sins, however, remain like a mire in the river 
bed, and dwell constantly in the memory, making a heavy 
cross to bear 1 . ” 

The Church herself gives us, in her Liturgy of the Mass, 
striking examples of compunction of heart. 

Look at what the priest does at the moment when about 
to offer the Holy Sacrifice, the most sublime homage that 
the creature can render to God. The priest is necessarily 
supposed to be in a state of grace and in possession' of God's 
friendship ; otherwise, in celebrating, he would commit a 
sacrilege. . Yet the Church, his infallible teacher, begins by 
making him confess before all the faithful there assembled, 
his condition not only of a creature, but of a sinner : Confiteor 
Oeo omnipoienh . . . et vobis, fratres, quia peccavi nimis. Then 
in the course of the holy action, the Church multiplies upon 
his bps formulas imploring forgiveness that he may steep 
his heart and mind in them : Aufer a nobis, quaesumus, 
% P Par d t° n ch. f ?x her diSCiple - Li, ‘ 01 St Catherin ‘ by BI. Raymond of Capua. 

i. The Interior Castle translated by the Benedictines of Stanbrook, p. sox. 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART 


157 


Domino, iniquitates nostras : " Take away from us our 
iniquities, we beseech Thee, 0 Lord, that we may enter with 
pure minds into the Holy of Holies. " In the midst of the 
song of the Angels, the priest blends cries for mercy with 
these exclamations of love and holy gladness : “ Thou Who 
takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. ” 
When he offers the Immaculate Host to God, it is for his 
" innumerable sins, offences, and negligences. ’’ Before the 
consecration, he prays " to be delivered from eternal damna- 
tion " : Ab aeterna damnations nos eripi. After the con- 
secration in which he is even identified with Christ Himcelf, 
the priest beseeches God to grant him some part and fellow- 
ship with the Saints notwithstanding his sins. Nobis quoque 
peccatoribus... non aestimator meriti, sed veniae quaesumus 
largitor admitte. Then comes the moment when he is about 
to unite himself sacramentally with the Divine Victim. 
He strikes his breast, like a sinner : " Lamb of God... regard 
not my sins... grant that this union of my soul with Thee 
may not turn to my judgment and condemnation. ” 

We think how many holy priests and pontiffs, held up 
to our veneration, have said these words : Pro innumerabili- 
bus peccalis meis. And the Church obliges them to repeat : 
" Lord, I am not worthy. ” Why does the Church do this ? 
Because without this spirit of compunction, one is not at 
the " right pitch, " the " diapason " of Christianity. When 
the priest beseeches that his sacrifice' may be united with 
that of Christ, he says : “ May we be received by Thee, O 
Lord, in the spirit of humility and with a contrite heart. ” 
The oblation of Jesus is always pleasing to the Father ; 
but, inasmuch as it is offered by us, it is only so on condition 
that our souls are filled with compunction and the spirit 
of self abasement that results from it. 

Such is the spirit that animates the Church, the Spouse 
of Christ, in the action that is the most sublime, the holiest 
she can accomplish here below. Even when the soul is 
identified with Christ, united to God in communion, the 
Church wishes us never to forget that we are sinners ; she 
wishes the soul to be steeped in compunction : In splritu 
humilitatis et in animo contrito suscipiamur a to, Domine. 

III. 

No one doubts that these sentiments of compunction 
prescribed by the Church for the Mass are perfectly fitting. 
But perhaps the thought may occur that they should be 



158 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

reserved for the renewing of the Sacrifice of the Cross, for 
the reception of the Sacraments, in a word for the Liturgy. 
Elsewhere, in the ordinary course of the interior life, would 
they not be pious exaggerations, would not this be going a 
little too far ? Certainly not. 

Listen to St. John in his divinely inspired Epistle : ” If 
we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the 
truth is not in us K ” As regards great and holy souls, this 
assertion is luminous. The nearer they come to God, the 
Sun of Justice, and spotless Holiness, the better they perceive 
the stains that disfigure them ; the brilliance of the Divine 
light in which they move, makes their least faults and failing 
appear in more striking contrast. Their inner gaze, purified 
by faith and love, penetrates more deeply into the Divine 
perfections ; they have a clearer view of their own nothing- 
ness ; they are better able to measure the abyss that separates 
them from the Infinite. Their more intimate union with 
Christ causes the sufferings endured by Him for the expiation 
of sin to touch them to the quick. Having a higher notion 
of the life of grace, they better grasp all that is horrible in 
offence committed against the Heavenly Father, in despising 
the Saviour’s Passion, in injurious resistance to the Spirit of 
Love. 

We understand that the fact of having offended God, 
were it but once in their existence, moves these souls with 
intensest grief. And there is, in their habitual attitude of 
repentance and detestation of sin, a constant proof of super- 
natural delicacy which cannot fail to please God, and draw 
down His infinite mercy upon them. 

Moreover, the state of soul we are studying is in nowise, 
as might be imagined at first sight, incompatible with con- 
laenceand spiritual joy, with outpourings of love and 
delight in God. Quite the contrary ! St. Augustine, St. Be- 
neihct, St Gregory, St. Bernard, St. Gertrude, St. Catherine 
oi Siena, St. Teresa, all these souls filled with the spirit of 
compunction, were they not also inflamed with divine love 
TT d rl c , a , rned a t wa y b y th e overflowing joy of the Holy Spirit ? 
Had they not come to a sublime degree of union with God ? 

* ° Ve and joy findin S a hindrance in the habitual 
find in e it° f r, epen . tal l ce whlch constitutes compunction, they 
soaring ° ne of the S reatest incentives for 

denied ? odwards ;, Whence m fact is compunction chiefly 
God rnricirW 1 ? 1 J^^krance the offence against 
ed as Infinite Goodness. By its very nature, 

1 , 1 Joan. 1, 8 . 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART 


159 

it hence concerns perfect contrition, one of the purest forms 
of love. It unceasingly stirs up generosity and love which 
want to repair the past by a greater fervour ; it makes the 
soul distrustful of self, but wonderfully pliant under the 
hand of God, extremely attentive to the action of the Holy 
Spirit. Compunction could not admit such a dangerous 
hindrance to the supernatural life and one so contrary to 
our religious state as wilful dissipation of mind and habitual 
ievity. Neither could it tolerate in relation to God any 
Irreverence or wrong land of familiarity, than which nothing 
is more perilous for the soul. Compunction avoids this 
danger. Father Faber says 1 : “It leads to a more fruitful, 
because a more reverent-, humble, and hungry use of the 
Sacraments, and no grace that comes to us is wasted while 
this sorrow possesses our souls... Lukewarmness is incompa- 
tible with this .holy sorrow and cannot co-exist with it. ” 
This sense of compunction is at times so deep and intense 
that it becomes the principle of a new life full of love, entirely 
consecrated to God’s service. St. Gregory says that it then 
often renders the penitent soul more pleasing to God than 
would be an innocent life passed in sluggish security: Et 
fit plerumque Deo gralior amore ardens vita post culpanu, 
quam securilate lorpens innocentici 2 . 

The source of humility as'of generosity, compunction again 
inclines the soul to accept the Divine will in its fulness, what- 
ever be the form under which this will is manifested, and 
whatever be the trials to which it subjects the soul. The soul 
then regards these trials as means whereby to avenge upon 
itself God’s perfections and rights ignored or outraged by 
sin. It so much regrets having offended Love, that, if 
anything disappointing, hard or painful befalls, the soul 
generously accepts it and this becomes an immense source 
of merits. You know that episode in the life of David. 
At the end of his reign, David is forced to flee from Jerusalem 
in consequence of Absalom’s revolt. In the course of his 
flight he is met by a man, a kinsman of Saul, named Semei. 
This man at once begins to throw stones at the old king 
and to curse him, saying : "Come out, come out... thou 
man of Belial... behold thy evils press upon thee, because 
thou art a man of blood. ” One qf David’s servants wants 
to intervene and punish the insult, but the king prevents 
him : “ Let him alone, ” he says. “ Behold my son, who 
came forth from my loins, seeketh my life : how much more 
now [shall this stranger] ? Let him alone that he may curse 

1. t. c. — x. Keg. pastor. Ill, o. 28. P. L. t. 77 . col. 107. 



l6o CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF T HE MONK 


as the Lord hath bidden him. Perhaps the Lord may lool; 
upon my affliction 1 , and the Lord may render me good 
•for the cursing of this day 2 . ” Remembering his sins, his 
heart full of the sense of compunction from which the Miserere 
overflowed, the holy king accepted every outrage' in expia- 
tion. 

This sense of compunction is also the principle of ardent 
charity towards our neighbour. If you are severe in your 
judgments, exacting with others, if you easily bring up the 
faults of your brethren, compunction does not dwell in you. 
Indeed one who is possessed by this sense, sees only his 
own faults, his own weaknesses, such as he is before God ; 
this is enough to make the spirit of self -exaltation die within 
him and to render him full of indulgence and compassion 
for others. 

Once again, do not let us suppose that joy is absent 
from such a soul. Far from that ! By awakening love, 
quickening generosity, and preserving charity, compunction 
purifies us the more, and makes us less unworthy of being 
united to our Lord ; it strengthens our confidence in God’s 
forgiveness and confirms our soul in peace. Thus it takes 
nothing away from spiritual joy and the amiability of virtue. 
Let us trust St. Francis of Sales who, better than any other, 
knew how to speak of Divine love and the joy that flows 
from it. “ The sadness of true penitence, ” he writes, “ is 
not so much to be named sadness as displeasure, or the sense 
and detestation of evil ; a sadness which is never troubled 
nor vexed, a sadness which does not dull the spirit, but makes 
it active, ready and diligent ; a sadness which does not weigh 
the heart down, but raises it by prayer and hope, and 
causes in it the movements of the fervour of devotion ; 
a sadness which in the heaviest of its bitternesses ever produ- 
ces the sweetness of an incomparable consolation... ’’ And 
quoting an old monk, a faithful echo of the asceticism of 
bygone ages, the great Doctor adds : " The sadness, says 
Cassian, which works solid penitence, and that desirable 
repentance of which one never repents, is obedient, affable, 
humble, mild, sweet, patient, — as being a child, and scion of 
chanty : so that, spreading over every pain of body and 
contrition of spirit, and being in a certain way joyous, 
courageous, and strengthened by the hope of doing better, 
it retains... all the Fruits of the Holy Spirit 3 ”. 

These are the natural fruits of this compunction. Far from 


I. The Massoritcs read : " 
the Love of God Book XI ch 
O. S. B. 


My tears. 

. XXI. 2. 


” — 2. II Reg. xvi. — 3. Treatise on 
.Translated by the Rev. H. B. Mackey, 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART 


idl 

discouraging the soul, compunction rather makes it full of 
gladness in God’s service ; and is not that the note of true 
devotion ? Thus when the soul, at the remembrance of 
its faults — a remembrance that ought to dwell on the fact 
of having offended God, and not on the circumstances of 
the sins committed, — humbles itself before God ; when it 
plunges in the flames of contrition in order to be purified 
of any remaining rust, when it sincerely declares itself to 
be unworthy of the Divine graces, Exi a me, quia homo pec- 
cator sum, Dotnine 1 , God looks down upon it with infinite 
goodness and mercy : Cor contriium el humilialum, Deus, non 
despicies 2 . " God is quicker to hear our tears than the 
movement of our lips, " says St. Augustine : Fletus citius 
audit quam voces 3 . And St. Gregory writes, " God does 
not delay to accept our tears ; He dries our tears which are 
but momentary with joys that abide : ’’ Nec mora erit in 
fletibus, quia tergent citius transeuntes lacrymas mansura 
gaudia 4 . 

Penetrated with these same thoughts, our Holy Father 
wishes that we should each day confess to God, in prayer, 
with tears and sighs, our past sins : Mala sua praeterita 
cum lacrymis vel gemitu cotidie in oratione Deo confiteri B . 
Remark this cotidie; St. Benedict does not say “ from time 
to time ’’ but " daily. ” Why does, he make such a recom- 
mendation ? Because he is assured — and he wants us 
to share this assurance ■ — • that it is on account of this humble 
attitude of a contrite soul that we shall be heard : In com- 
punctione lacrymarum nos exaudiri sciamus 6 . It is not 
without deep reason that these words of the holy Legislator 
have passed into an incontested axiom of monastic asceticism 7 . 

IV. 

Another of the most precious fruits of the spirit of com- 
punction is that it renders us strong against temptation. 
By fostering in the soul the hatred of sin, compunction puts 
it on guard against the snares of the enemy. 

Temptation plays such a large part in the spiritual life that 
it is necessary to treat of it ; we shall see how compunction 

i. Luc. v, 8. — 2. Ps. l. 19. — 3. Sermon xlvii of the appendix to the 
works of S* Augustine. P. L. 39, col. 1S38. — 4. Homil. in Evangel, lib. H, 
horn xxxi, 8. P. L. 76, col. 1232. — 5. Rule, ch. iv. — 6. Ibid. ch. xx. — 
7* S* Benedict wants to keep our souls habitually in the 44 tonality " of 
the Miserere; the interior state of David, penitent yet full of confidence in 
the Divine Mercy, David indefinitely alternating in his psalms between 
contrition and love. ** D. M, Festugi&re, L. c. 



162 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

is furthermore one of the most effectual arms for resisting 

temptation. , . 

We come across people who imagine that the interior life 
is but a pleasant easy ascent, along a flower-bordered path. 
You know it is not generally so, although God, the Sovereign 
Master of His gifts, can lead us by such a path if He pleases. 
Long ago God said in Holy Writ : " Son, when thou comest 
to the service of God ’’ — and it is for that we have come 
to the monastery, which is a school where we learn how to 
serve the Lord : Schola dominici servitii 1 , — " prepare thy 
soul for temptation ” : Fill, accedens ad servitutem Dei, 
praepara animam tuam ad tentalionem 2 . In fact, it is im- 
possible under the conditions of our present humanity, to 
find God fully without being beset by temptation. And the 
devil is most often infuriated against those who seek God 
sincerely and in whom he sees the most living image of 
Christ Jesus. 

But is not temptation a danger for the soul ? Would it 
not be highly preferable not to be tempted ? We are 
spontaneously inclined to envy those whom we may imagine 
are never tried by temptation. " Happy the man, ” we 
would willingly say, “ who has not to undergo its assaults. " 
That is what our human wisdom might suggest,’ but God, 
Who is the infallible Truth, the source of our holiness and 
beatitude, says quite the contrary : “ Blessed is the man 
that endureth temptation ’’ : Beatus vir qui sufjert ten- 
tationem... 3 Why does the Holy Spirit proclaim this man 
“ blessed ” when we should have been inclined to think 
quite otherwise ? Why does the Angel say to Tobias : 

Because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary 
that temptation should prove thee ” : Quia acceptus eras 
Deo, necesse fuit ul tentatio probar et te*. Is it for the sake 
of the temptation itself ? Evidently not, but because God 
uses it in order to obtain a proof of our fidelity, which, upheld 
by grace, is strengthened and manifested in the conflict and 
wins at last a crown of life. Cum prohatus juerii, accipiet 
coronam vitae s . 

Temptation patiently borne is a source of merit for the 
soul and is glorious for God. By its constancy in trial, 
the soul is the living testimony of the might of grace : 
. My grace is sufficient for thee : for power is made perfect 
in infirmity : Sufficit tibi gratia mea, nam virtus in infirmi- 

a e perficiiur . God awaits this homage and glory from us. 


i. Prologue of the Rule. — 2. Eccli. n, i. _ 3 , Ta0 Tob 

13 - — 5 - Jac. i, 12. — fi. ii Cor. xii, 9. 3. jac. i, 12. — 4. job. xii> 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART 


163 

Look at the holy man Job. Scripture lends God a kind of 
pride in the perfection of this great just man. One day — 
the sacred writer has dramatised the scene — when Satan 
stands before Him, God says to him : " Whence comest 
thou ? ” And Satan replies : " I have gone round about 
the earth, and walked through it. ” The Lord says again : 
" Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none 
like him in the earth, a man simple and upright, and fearing 
God, and avoiding evil ? ” Satan sneers and asks what merit 
Job has in showing himself perfect when all prospers with 
him and smiles upon him. “ But, ” he adds, “ put forth 
Thy hand, and touch his bone and his flesh and then Thou 
shalt see that he will bless (or rather curse) Thee to Thy 
face 1 . ” God gives Satan leave to strike His servant in his 
possessions, in his family, even in his person. And now 
see Job, despoiled little by little of all his goods, covered 
with ulcers, seated upon his dunghill, and obliged over and 
above this to undergo the sarcasms of his wife and friends 
who would excite him to blaspheme. But he remains un- 
shaken in his fidelity to God. No feeling of revolt rises 
from his heart, not a murmur passes his lips, only words of 
wonderful submission : “ The Lord gave and the Lord hath 
taken away... blessed be the name of the Lord !... If we 
have received good things at the hand of God, why should 
we not receive evil 2 ? " What heroic cons tancy ! And what 
glory is given to God by this man who, overwhelmed with 
such woes, blesses the Divine hand ! And we know how 
God, after having tried him, renders testimony to him, and 
restores all his possessions while multiplying them. Tempta- 
tion had served to show the extent of Job’s fidelity. 

In many a soul, temptation does another work which 
nothing else could do. Souls there are, upright but proud, 
who cannot attain divine union unless they are first humbled 
down to the ground. They have, as it were, to fathom the 
abyss of their frailty, and learn by experience how absolutely 
dependent they are on God, so that they may no longer trust 
in themselves. It is by temptation alone that they can 
measure their powerlessness. When these souls are buffeted 
by temptation, and feel themselves at the edge of the abyss, 
they realise the necessity of humbling themselves. At that 
moment a great cry escapes them and rises up to God. 
And then comes the hour of grace. Temptation keeps 
them in a state of vigilance over their weaknesses, and in 

1. Job. 1, 7-11. — 2. Ibid. 21; 11, 10. 


!f)4 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

a constant spirit of dependence upon God. For them, 
temptation is the best school of humility. 

Trial profits others by preserving them from lukewarmness. 
Without temptation, they would fall into spiritual sloth. 
Temptation is for them a stimulus for in combating it 
love is quickened while fidelity finds an opportunity of 
manifesting itself. Look at the Apostles in the Garden of 
Olives. In spite of the warning given them by their Divine 
Master to watch and pray, they sleep ; all unconscious of 
danger, they let themselves be surprised by the enemies of 
Jesus, they take to flight, forsaking their Master, despite all 
theirprevious protestations. How different was their conduct 
from what it had been when they were struggling against 
the tempest on the Lake. Then in face of the imminent peril 
of which they are fully aware, they awake Jesus from His 
sleep with cries of distress : " Lord, save us, we perish ” : 
Domine, salva nos, perimus 1 ! 

Again, temptation gives us the great formation of 
experience. This is a precious fruit because we become 
skilled in helping souls when they come to us seeking light 
and help. How can anyone instruct or effectually help an- 
other who is tempted, if he himself does not know what 
temptation is ? St. Paul says of Jesus Christ that He willed 
to be tempted as we are, though without sin, that He might 
have compassion on our infirmities : Tentatum -per omnia 
absque pecc'ato 2 ; in eo enim in quo passtis est ipse el lentatus, 
potens est el eis qui lentantur, auxiliari 3 . 

Let us then not be afraid of the fact of temptation, nor 
of its frequency or violence. It is only a trial ; God never 
permits it save in view of our greater good. However much 
it besets us, it is not a sin, provided that we do not expose 
ourselves wilfully to its attacks and never consent to it. 
We may feel its sting or its seductions ; but as long as that 
fine point of the soul which is the will remains steadfast 
against it, we ought to be tranquil. Christ Jesus is with 
us, in us ; and who is stronger than He ? 


But from wherever it comes, — from the devil, the world, 
or our evil tendencies, — and whatever be its nature, we must, 
for our part, resist temptation with courage and above all 
with promptitude. 

I. Matth. vin, 35. — 2. Hcbr. iv, 15. — 3. Ibid. 11, 18. 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART 165 

Our Holy Father was a model of this generous resistance. 
You know that one day tempted by the remembrance of 
worldly joys, he stripped himself of his garments and rolled 
among thorns until his body was all torn 1 . The great 
Patriarch knew then by personal experience what temptation 
was, and how strongly it must be resisted. Now what is 
the conduct he prescribes to us in presence of temptation ? 
Speaking in the language of his own asceticism, let us say 
that he furnishes us with three " instruments ” : " To keep 
guard at all times over the actions of our life. To know 
for certain that God sees us everywhere. To dash down at 
the feet of Christ our evil thoughts the instant that they 
come into the heart 2 . " 

Watchfulness has been sovereignly recommended to us 
by our Lord Himself : Vigilate 3 . Now, how are we to keep 
this vigilance ? By the spirit of compunction which keeps 
us ever upon our guard; A soul, knowing its weakness by 
experience, has horror of anything that could expose it to 
offending God anew. On account of this loving fear, it is 
careful to avoid all that could turn it away from God Who 
beholds us night and day. 

And as it distrusts itself, it has recourse to Christ : El 
orate A He is a true disciple of Christ, says our Holy Father, 
who when tempted by the Evil One . casts him and his 
suggestions far from his heart, and brings him to naught 5 . 
And how are we to bring the Evil One and his malice to 
naught ? By seizing the first " offspring ” of the evil thought 
and brealdng it against the feet of Christ 6 . St. Benedict 
compares evil thoughts to the offspring of the devil, the 
father of sin ; he tells us to cast them out as soon as they 
appear: Mox ad Christum allidere 7 . Note this little word : 
" Mox ", immediately. When we play with temptation, we 
let it grow and increase in strength while at the same time 
the energy to resist it diminishes in us. We must give evil 
suggestions no time to grow, but dash them down while 
they are yet little and weak like beings just born. In this 
expression ad Christum allidere — our Holy Father has in 
mind the maledictions of the Psalmist against Babylon, the 
city of. sin : “ Blessed be he that shall take and dash tny 
little ones against the rock 8 . " Christ, says St. Paul, is 

i. S. Greg. Dialog, lib. u, c. n. — 2. Rule, ch. iv. — 3. Matth. xxvi, 41. — 
4* Matth. xxvi, 41. — 5. Prologue of the Rule. — 6. Ibid. — 7. Rule, ch. iv. 
~~ 8. p s . cxxxv. S‘ Jerome, (Epist. xxn, 6), S* Hilarius. (Tract, in Ps. 
cxxxvi, 14) and S* Augustine make use of the same language : ** Qui sunt 
pcirvuli Babyloniae? Nasccntes malae cttpiditates ... Cum parvula est ... ad 
pctram elide. Petra autem erat Chrislus. " Enarr. in Psalm cxxxvi, § XXI. 


j (56 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

"the chief comer stone " of our spiritual edifice: Ipso 
'sumftto angulari lapide Christo Jcsu 1 . 

Recourse to Christ Jesus is indeed the most certain means 
of overcoming temptation ; the devil fears Christ and trembles 
at the Cross. Are we tempted against faith ? Let us at 
once say : " All that Jesus has revealed to us He receives 
from His Father. Jesus is the Only-begotten Son Who 
from the bosom of the Father has come to manifest to us 
the Divine secrets which He alone can know. He is the 
Truth. Yes, Lord Jesus, I believe in Thee, but increase my 
faith I ” If we are tempted against hope, let us look at 
Christ upon the Cross : has He not become the Propitiation 
for the sins of the whole world ? Is He not the holy High 
Priest Who has entered for us into Heaven and ever inter- 
cedes with the Father on our behalf : Semper vivens ad 
interpellandum pro nobis 2 . And He has'said : “Him that 
cometh to Me, I will not cast out ” : Tit eum qui vcnit ad Me 
non ejiciam foras 3 . Does want of confidence in God seek 
to insinuate itself into our heart ? But who has loved us 
more than God, more than Christ : Dilexit me et iradidit 
semelipsmn pro me*? When the devil whispers thoughts 
of pride, let us again look on Christ Jesus ; He was God 
and He humbled Himself even to the ignominious death on 
Calvary. Can the disciple be above the Master 5 ?... When 
wounded self-love suggests that we should return the injuries 
done to us, let us yet again look at Jesus, our Model, during 
His Passion.: He did not turn away His Face from them 
that spat upon and struck Him : Faciem meant non averti 
ab increpantibus el conspuentibus in me 6 . If the world, the 
devil's accomplice, holds before our eyes the reflection of 
senseless, transitory joys, let us take refuge with Christ to 
Whom Satan promised the kingdoms of the world and the 
glory of them if He would adore him : “ Lord Jesus, it was 
for Thee that I left all things, that I might follow Thee 
more closely, Thee alone ; never suffer me to be separated 
from Thee !” A tennnquam separaripermitlas' 1 . There is no 
temptation but that can be brought to nothing by the 
remembrance of Christ : Mox ad Christum allidere. 

And if it continues, if above all it is accompanied by 
dryness and spiritual darkness, do not let us allow ourselves 
to be discouraged : it is because God wishes to delve deep 
down in our soul to enlarge its capacity in order to fill it 


i. Eph. n, 20. 
5. Cf. Luo. vi, 40, 
Communion. 


2 - Hebr. vii, 25. — 3. Joan, vi, 37. — 4. Gal. 11, 20. — 

• 0. Isa. l, 0. — 7, Ordinary of the Mass, prayer before 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART 167 

with His grace : Purgavit eum ut fructum phis afferc.l 1 ; only 
let us cry out to Jesus, like His disciples : " Save us, 0 Lord, 
for without Thee, we shall perish 2 1” 

If we thus act immediately the temptation arises, mox, 
while it is yet weak ; if above all we keep our soul in that 
inward attitude of habitual repentance which is compunction, 
let us be assured that the devil will be powerless against us. 
Temptation will only have served to exercise our fidelity, 
to strengthen our love and make us more pleasing to our 
Father in Heaven. 

VI. 

But where are we to obtain this spirit of compunction 
which is such a great gain ? 

To begin with, by asking it of God. This " gift of tears " 
is so precious, so high a grace, that it is in imploring it " from 
the Father of lights ’’ from Whom every perfect gift comes 
down upon us 3 that we shall obtain it. The missal contains 
a formula pro petitione lacrymarum. The old monks often 
recited this prayer. Let us repeat it after them : ‘ Al- 
mighty and most merciful God, Who, to quench the thirst 
of thy people, madest a fountain of living water to spring 
out of the rock, draw from our stony hearts the tears of 
compunction, that effectually bewailing our sins, we may 
through Thy mercy deserve to obtain pardon for them. 

We may also borrow from Holy Writ certain praj^ers 
that the Church has made her own ; for instance, David s 
prayer after his sin. You know how dear the great king 
was to the Heart of God Who had lavished His benefits 
upon him. Then David falls into a great sin ; he gives to 
his people the scandal of murder and adulcery. The Lord 
sends a prophet to him to excite him to repentance. And 
David, at once humbling himself and striking his breast, 
cries out : " I have sinned. " This repentance wins pardon 
for him : “ The Lord also hath taken away thy sin, " says 
the prophet: Transttdit peccalum tuum 4 . The king then 
composed that inspired Psalm, the Miserere, at once full 
of contrition and confidence. " Have mercy on me, 0 God, 
according to Thy great mercy ; wash me yet more from my 
iniquity ; against Thee only have I sinned, and my sin is 
ever before me ; cast me not away from Thy face, and take 
not Thy Holy Spirit from me. ” That is contrition. Here 

i. Joan, xv, 2. — 2. Cf. Matth. vm, 23. — 3- J ac ' ■> *7- — ^ ^ es * 

13 . 



l6S CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

is the hope which is inseparable from it : " Restore unto 
me the joy of Thy salvation... Thou wilt open my lips, 
and my mouth shall declare Thy praise... A sacrifice to 
God is an afflicted spirit, a contrite and humbled heart, 
0 God, Thou wilt not despise 1 . ” 

Such accents indeed cannot but touch God’s Heart : " Thou 
hast set my tears in Thy sight ” : Posuisti lacrymas meas in 
conspectu tuo 2 . Has not Christ Jesus declared "Blessed 
are they that weep 3 . ” “ But amongst all those who weep, 
none are sooner consoled than those who weep for their 
sins. In every other case, sorrow, far from being a remedy 
for the evil, is another evil which increases it ; sin is the only 
evil that is cured by weeping, for it.;, the forgiveness of 
sins is the fruit of these tears 4 . ’’ 


To the prayer imploring the gift of compunction from 
God, is naturally joined all spiritual means capable of awaken- 
ing it within us : the most powerful is incontestably the fre- 
quent contemplation of our Divine Saviour’s Passion. 

If you contemplate with faith and devotion the sufferings 
of Jesus Christ you will have a revelation of God’s love 
and justice ; you will know, better than with any amount of 
reasoning, the malice of sin. This contemplation is like a 
sacramental causing the soul to share in that Divine sadness 
which invaded the soul of Jesus in the Garden of Olives — 
Jesus, the very Son of God, in Whom the Father, Whose 
exigencies are infinite, was well pleased. And yet His heart 
was full of sorrow — " sorrowful even unto death " : Tristis 
est anmz mea usque ad mortem E . Great cries arise from His 
reast, as tears arise from His eyes ; cum clamore valido et 
lacrymis . Whence come this sadness, these sighs and tears? 
I hey come from the weight of the burden of the world’s 
crimes ; Posuit Dominus in eo iniqnitatem omnium nostrum' 1 . 
jurist is like the scape-goat laden with all our sins. Certainly 
romrm t"° a , P enit ent ” ; He could not have contrition, 
wTk tl0 t"’ r SUC v h 1 aS We have defined it, for the soul of 
off k Lf w- y ho y u and lm maculate ; the debt to be paid 
own - but ours : Attritus est propter scelera 
willed in f° Weyer ’ b !f use of this substitution, Jesus has 
in Drls^r P ^ n i nCG th u s ? dness . which the soul must feel 
of outrswd lm has willed to undergo the blows 

by the greatest USt ! C r,' and therefore to be crushed 

in fir mil ate 0 6 S0rr0w : B° min us voluit conterere eum in 


Hebr.Ti S ^r S l£ ! £rr tM ?ifV'- =• 

7. isa. LIU, 6. — 8. Ibid, 5 . _ 9 . Ibid. I0 _ ' J 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART 


169 

I have not loved thee in jest, ” our Lord says one day 
to the Blessed Angela of Foligno. "This word,” writes 
the Saint, " struck a deadly pain into my soul, because 
straightway the eyes of my soul were opened and I saw clearly 
that what He said was most true. For I saw the works and 
the effect of that love, and I saw all that this Son of God 
worketh by reason of that love. ” The Saint specifies the 
object of her vision. " I saw that what He underwent in 
life and in death, this God-Man, Who suffered His Passion 
by reason of His ineffable tender love, and I understood 
that the aforesaid word. is most true, namely, that He loves 
me not in jest, but that by a most true and most perfect 
and most tender love, hath He loved me. " And what 
was the result of this contemplation for Angela’s soul ? 
A deep sense of compunction. Hear how she judges herself 
in the divine light. “ And. I saw that in me it was just the 
opposite... Then, too, my soul cried out and said: '0 
Master... I have never loved Thee save in jest and with 
falsehood and hypocrisy ; and never have I desired to come 
near to Thee in truth, so as to feel the labours that Thou 
hast willed to feel and to suffer for me ; and never have I 
served Thee truly and for Thy sake, but with double-dealing 
and negligently 1 ? . 

You see how holy souls are touched and how they humble 
themselves when they consider Christ’s sufferings. On the 
night of the Passion, Peter, the Prince of the Apostles to 
whom Christ had revealed His glory upon Thabor, who had 
just received Holy Communion from Jesus own hands, 
Peter, at the voice of a servant-maid, denies His Master. 
Soon afterwards, the gaze of Jesus, abandoned to the caprices 
of His mortal enemies, meets that of Peter. The Apostle 
understands ; he goes out, and bitter tears flow from his 
eyes : Flevit amare 2 . 

A like effect is produced in the soul that contemplates 
the sufferings of Jesus with faith : it, too, has followed. 
Jesus, with Peter, on the night of the Passion ; it, too, 
meets the gaze of the Divine Crucified, and that is . for it 
a true grace. Let us often keep close in the footsteps of 
the Suffering Christ, by making the “ Way of the Cross. 
Jesus will say to us : " See what I have suffered for the e , 
I have endured a three hours’ agony, endured the desertion 
of My disciples, and having My. Face spat upon, the false 

1. The Book 0/ Visions, ch. xxxm. Translated from the Latin by “A 
Secular Priest ", Publ. by the Art and Book C°, Leamington. — .. Matta. 
xxvi, 75. 



170 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

witnesses, the cowardice of Pilate, the derision of Herod, 
the weight of the Cross beneath which I fell, the nakedness 
of the gibbet, the bitter sarcasms of My most deadly enemies, 
the thirst which they would have quenched with gall and 
vinegar, and, above all, the being forsaken by My Father. 
It was for thee, out of love for thee, to expiate thy sins 
that I endured all ; with My Blood I have paid thy debts ; 
I underwent the terrible exigences of Justice that mercy 
might be shown to thee!” Could we remain insensible 
to such a plea ! The gaze of Jesus upon the Cross 
penetrates to the depths of our soul and touches it with 
repentance, because we are made to understand that sin is 
the cause of all these sufferings. Our heart then deplores 
having really contributed to the Divine Passion. When God 
thus touches a soul with His light, in prayer, He grants it 
one of the most precious graces that can be. 

It is a repentance, moreover, full of love and confidence. 
For the soul does not sink down in despair beneath the weight 
of its sins : compunction is accompanied with consolation 
and comfort ; the thought of the Redemption prevents 
shame and regret from degenerating into discouragement. 
Has not Jesus purchased our pardon superabundantly : Et 
copiosa apud eum redemption? The sight of His sufferings, 
at the same time as it gives birth to contrition, quickens 
within us hope in the infinite value of the sufferings by which 
Christ satisfied for us, and this brings us ineffable peace, 
Ecce in pace amaritudo mea amarissima 2 . 

Perhaps in looking back upon the past, we see many 
miseries and stains. Perhaps we are tempted to say to 
Christ : " Lord Jesus, howshallsuch as I ever be able to please 
Thee ? Let us then remember that Christ came down to 
earth to seek sinners 3 , that He Himself has said : the angels 
rejoice over the conversion of one sinner more than over 
the perseverance of many just*. Each time that a sinner 
repents and obtains forgiveness, the angels in Heaven glorify 
God for His mercy : Quoniam in aeternum miscricordia ejus 5 . 

Let us think too of these words : " Thou, Who didst absolve 
Mary [Magdalen] and hear the Good Thief, hast not left 
me without hope*.” They are words full of confidence. 
Christ Jesus forgave Magdalen ; more than that, He loved 
~^ r u a ^ ove P re dilection ; He made her, who had been 
the shame of her sex, pure as a virgin. 

What Christ wrought in Magdalen, 'He can do again in 


I .J> S c xx,x 7 — 2 . Isa. xxxviii, 17.— 3. Matth. ix, 13, _ 4. Luc. xv, 7, 

*0. 5. ^s. cxxxv. — • 6. Sequenco Dies trae. 


COMPUNCTION OF HEART 


171 

the greatest of sinners ; Christ can rehabilitate the sinner 
and bring him to holiness. This is a work reserved to Divine 
Omnipotence : Quis potest jacere mundum de immundo... nisi 
tu qui solus es 1 ? He is God : and God alone has this power 
of renewing innocence in His creature : it is the triumph of 
the Blood of Jesus. 

But this ineffable renewal is only wrought upon one 
condition : it is that one imitates the sinner of the Gospel 
in her loving repentance. Magdalen is truly a perfect model 
of compunction. Look at her, at the feast in Simon’s house, 
prostrate at the Saviour's feet, watering them with her 
tears, wiping them with the hairs of her head, the adornment 
wherewith she had seduced souls, humbling herself in pre- 
sence of all the guests, and pouring out her contrite love 
at the same time as her perfumes. Later, she will generously 
follow Christ to the foot of the Cross, upheld by the love 
which make her share the sorrows and reproaches with which 
Jesus is overwhelmed. Love again will bring her the first 
to the tomb, until the Risen Christ, calling her by her name, 
rewards the ardour of her zeal and makes her the apostle of 
His Resurrection to the disciples : Remittuntur ei peccata 
multd quoniam dilexit multum 2 . 

Let us too often stay with Magdalen, near the Cross. 
After the application of the merits of Jesus in the Sacrament 
of Penance, after assistance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass 
which reproduces the immolation on Calvary, there is truly 
no surer means than the exercise of compunction for destroy- 
ing sin and arming us against it. 

Let us then seek to keep ourselves in this disposition of 
which the fruits are so precious. Nothing will give more 
solidity to our spiritual life, more sureness to our perseverance. 
Speaking of compunction. Father Faber says : " It is as 
life-long with us as anything can be. It is a prominent part 
of our first turning to God, and there is no height of holiness 
in which it will leave us 3 . " 

1. Job. XIV, 4. — 2. Luc. VII, 47- — 3. L. c. 


SELF-RENUNCIATION 


173 


IX. — SELF-RENUNCIATION. 


Summary. — Acts of Christian renunciation ought to correspond with 
sincere compunction. — I. The expiation of sin concerns, for 
different reasons, both Christ and the members of His Mystical 
Body — II. Practice of renunciation : mortifications imposed 
by the Church. — III. Mortifications inherent to common life 
and the observance of the Vows. - — IV. The mortifications 
which every one of good will may practise on his own initiative ; 
essential condition which St. Benedict lays down on this point. 
— V. Practices of self-renunciation constitute only a means, 
and their value is derived from their union with the sufferings 
of Jesus. 

A ccording to the Divine Plan which the Eternal Father 
has traced out for us. He wills that we should only 
go to Him by walking in the footsteps of His Son, 
Christ Jesus. Our Lord has given us the formula of this 
fundamental truth : " I am the Way... No man cometh to 
the Father but by Me ” : Nemo venit ad Palrem nisi per Me 1 . 

Compunction of heart, as we have seen, by fostering the 
habitual detestation of sin, works very efficaciously at dissol- 
ving the obstacles which would hinder us from following the 
Divine Model. 

However our inward dispositions must logically become 
a part of our conduct, ruling and inspiring our deeds. To 
sincere compunction will necessarily correspond acts of Chris- 
tian renunciation. Did not our Lord bequeath this maxim 
to all His disciples : " If any man will come after Me, let 
him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me 
Si guis vult post Me venire, abnegct semetipsum el tollat crucem 
suam et sequalur Me 2 . > 

This precept, in one sense characteristic of Christian asce- 
ticism, has naturally passed into our Holy Father’s teaching, 
which is the faithful reflection of the Gospel. Before detail- 
ing the practice of renunciation among the instruments of 
good works, the very words of the Word Incarnate are 
recalled to us by the Holy Patriarch : " To deny oneself, in 
order to follow Christ ’’ : Abnegate semetipsum sibi ut sequatur 
Christum 3 . 

1. Joan. XIV, 6. — 2. Matth. xvt, 24. — 3. Rule, eh. iv. 


Let us then study the way wherein Our Lord has gone 
before us, that we, in our turn, may walk in it. And if 
this way appears hard to our nature of flesh and blood, 
let us ask Jesus Himself to uphold us ; He is the Life as 
well as the Truth and the Way ; by the unction of His Al- 
mighty grace, He will give us the power to contemplate 
Him as we should, and to follow Him whithersoever He goes. 

I. 

Since Adam’s fall, man can only return to God by expia- 
tion. St. Paul tells us in speaking of Christ that He is “a 
High Priest, holy innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners”: 
Pontijcx sanctus, innocens, impolhitus et segregatus a pecca- 
toribus 1 . Jesus, our Head, is infinitely far from all that is 
sin; and yet He has to pass through the sufferings of the 
Cross before entering into His glory. 

You know the episode of Emmaus related by St. Luke. 
On the day of the Resurrection, two of Jesus’ disciples set 
out to this town, a short distance from Jerusalem. They 
speak to one another of their disappointment caused by the 
death of the Divine Master, and the apparent downfall of 
all their hopes concerning the restoration of the kingdom 
of Israel. And behold, Jesus, unde the guise of a stranger, 
joins them and asks them the subject of their discourse. 
The (.disciples tell Him the cause of their sadness. Then 
the .Saviour, Who has not yet revealed Himself to them 
saysjHn a tone of reproach : “ O foolish and slow of heart 
to believe... Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, 
and so to enter into His glory ? ’’ : Nonne haec oportuit pati 
Christum et ita inlrare in gloriam suam 2 ? 

Why then " ought " Christ to have suffered ? If He 
had so willed, could not God have universally forgiven sin 
without requiring expiation ? Assuredly He could. His 
absolute power knows no limits ; but His justice has exacted 
expiation, and, first of all, Christ’s expiation. 

The Word Incarnate, in taking human nature, substituted 
Himself for sinful man, powerless to redeem himself ; and 
Christ became the Victim for sin. This is what our Lord 
gave His disciples to understand in telling them that His 
sufferings were necessary. Necessary, not only in their 
generality, but even in their least details : for if a single 
sigh of .Christ would have sufficed, and far more than sufficed, 
to redeem the world, a free decree of the Divine will, touching 

1. Hebr. vh, 2S. — 2. Luc. .xxiv, 26. ; 



1^4 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

all the circumstances of the Passion, has accumulated therein 
an infinite superabundance of satisfaction. 

You know with what love and abandonment to the will 
of His Father, Jesus accepted all that He had decreed. 
He suffered from His first entrance into the world, that He 
might fully accomplish this Divine will of which He knew 
the full extent : Ecce vcnio 1 . All was to be accomplished to 
the last detail with most loving faithfulness : Iota unum aut 
units apex non praetcribit a lege, donee omnia plant‘d. 

We find a singular testimony of this Divine exactness in 
St. John’s Gospel. Fastened to the Cross, suffering with 
thirst/on the point of expiring, Christ Jesus remembers 
that a verse of the prophecies is not yet fulfilled ; and, in 
order that it should be so, He says: " I thirst 3 . ” Then, 
having said this, our Lord pronounces the supreme words : 
Consummatum est i . " It is consummated. ” O Father, I 
have fulfilled all : since the moment when I said : “ Behold 
I come to do Thy will, ” I have omitted nothing ; now I have 
drunk to the dregs the chalice Thou gavest Me to drink ; 
there is nothing left for Me to do but commend My spirit 
into Thy hands. 

But if our Divine Saviour suffered that He might redeem 
us, it was also to give us the grace to unite our expiation 
to His own and thus render it meritorious. For, says 
St. Paul, “ they that are Christ’s, have crucified their flesh, 
with the vices and concupiscences ” : Qui sunt Cliristi carnem 
suam crucifixerunl cum vitiis suis 6 . The expiation required 
by Divine Justice touches not only Christ Jesus ; it extends 
to all the members of His Mystical Body. We share in 
the glory of our Head only after having shared in His suffer- 
ings ; it is St. Paul again who tells us so : Si tamen compatimur 
ul et conglorificemiir 8 . 

Having solidarity with Christ in suffering, we are however 
condemned to bear it for a quite different reason. He had 
but to expiate the sins of others : Propter scelus popitli mei 
percussi turn 1 . We, on the contrary, have first to bear the 
weight of our own iniquities : Digna jaclis recipimus, hie vero 
nihil malt gessit B . By sin, we have contracted a debt towards 
God’s justice ; and, when the offence has been remitted, the 
debt still remains for us to pay. This is the role of satis- 
faction 

Moreover, the spirit of self-renunciation assures perseve- 

I> ?L- 5 XX,X ’ ® ant * ^ e ^ r * x i 7 * — 2. Matth. v, 18. — 3, Joan, xix, 28. 

4. Ibid, 30. — • 5. Galat. v, 24. — 6. Rom. vm, 17. — 7. Isa. liii, 8. — 
8. Luc. xxm, 41. 


SELF-REN U N Cl ATION 


175 

_ rp Every actual sin turns the soul in the direction of 
ptfl ‘Even after forgiveness, there remains a tendency an 
' inclination, latent for the moment, but real, which, engrafted 
unon our native concupiscence, finds the first opportunity 
producing fruit. It is for mortification to uproot these 
vicious tendencies, to counteract these habits, to annihilate 
this attachment to sin. Mortification pursues sm inasmuch 
2 sin is an obstacle between the soul and God; therefore 
mortification must continue until these perverse tendencies 
of our nature are mastered ; otherwise, these tendencies will 
end by dominating, by being the source of numerous faults 
whichwill compromise, or, in any case will keep at. a very 
low level, our union with God and the life of charity in us. 
We have made a fervent Communion m the morning ; our 
soul is entirely united to God. But if, m the course of the 
da v in the midst of our occupations, the old man awakens 
to mcline us to pride, to touchiness, to anger, we must imme- 
diately repress these movements. Otherwise 
surorised into giving consent ; and the life of chanty, th 
S of our soul with God would be lessened. I for 
example we are strongly inclined to self-love accustomed 
to consider self in everything and direct everything towards 
self we shall be touchy, hurt by a nothing, we shall De 
sullen and show bad temper; a quaiitity o reprehe^bl 
actions will be almost instinctively born of this self-love ana 
wfll impede the action of Christ in it ; this is why we mu 
mortify this self-love, so that m the end the love of Jesus 
Christ may alone reign within us. Our h° rd ex P e 
to repress the ill-regulated movements that urge us to sin 
and imperfection ; do not let us suppose we can pretend 
the state of union if we allow bad habits to g° va ™ °ur heart; 
As you see, renunciation is necessary, noLonly as sam 

faction for our past sins, but also as a . m ?P mortification 
us from falling into them again, thanks o 
of the natural tendencies that inchne us to evil 

It is this twofold motive that our Holy rath e . er 
filled with the spirit of the Gospel, indica e morti- 

those who enter the monastery, when he spe „ 

fying of vicious habits: “ the amendment / dictante 

preservation of charity. ” Si quid paululum ' » co n- 

aequitaiis raiione, propter emendationem V 
SERVATIONEM CARITATIS processent ■ A l,c»rvince 

To those who are more advanced "m the observance 
and in faith 2 , ” who by Christ's grace have already gam 

1. Prologue of the Ruler — 2. Ibid. 



CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

the strength to overcome evil tendencies and to run in 
he way of God’s commandments V’ St. Benedict brings for- 
ward another motive - a higher and not less powerful one : 
the participation in Christ’s sufferings : Passtombus Chnsh 
■per palientiam pariicipcmur 2 . Indeed, for faithful and holy 
souls who have made satisfaction for their faults whose 
union with God is more assured against the assaults of the 
enemv, self-renunciation becomes the means and proof of a 
more perfect imitation of our Lord. These souls willingly 
embrace the cross to "help” Christ in His Passion .•Cal- 
vary is the chosen place where they are led and held by 
Love. 


The need of mortification once recognised, we must learn 
in what measure we ought to practise it, — and first of all 
how we are to appreciate specifically the value of the different 
acts of renunciation proposed to us. Their hierarchy is as 
follows : in the first place, the mortifications which the 
Church, the Bride of Christ, prescribes ; — next those, 
which are prescribed by the Rule, or are inherent to the daily 
observance of the monastic life ; — finally, those we choose 
for ourselves or that are sent to us by God. 

To begin with the mortifications that the Church prescribes 
for us. 

We find in a letter of St. Paul some words that at first 
sight seem astonishing : " I rejoice in my sufferings for you, 
and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings 
of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the Church ” : 
Adimpleo ea quae desunt passionum Christi in came mea, 
pro corpore c jus, quod est Ecclesia 3 . What do these words 
mean ? Is something then wanting to the sufferings of 
Christ ? Certainly not. We know that in themselves they 
were, so to speak, measureless : measureless in their intensity, 
for they rushed like a mighty torrent upon Christ ; measure- 
less above all in their value, a value properly speaking 
infinite, since they are the sufferings of a God. Moreover, 
Christ, having died for all, has become by His Passion, the 
Propitiation for the sins of the whole world 4 . St. Augustine 
explains the meaning of this text of the Apostle: to understand 
the mystery of Christ, we must not separate Him from His 
Mystical Body. Christ is not the " Whole Christ, " according 

i. Prologue of the Rule. cf. Ps. cxvm, 32. — 2. Ibid. — 3. Co. 1, 24. — 4- 

I Joan, n, 2. . • 


SELF-RENUNCIATION 


177 


to the expression of the great Doctor, unless He is taken as 
unUed to the Church. He is the Head of the Church which 
forms His Mystical Body. Hence since Christ has brought 
His share of expiation, it remains for the Mystical Body 
to bring its share: Adimplctae juerunt passiones in capita, 
restabant adhuc passiones in corpore 3 . . , . 

In the same way as God had decreed that, to satisfy justice 
and crown His work of love, Christ was to undergo a sum of 
sufierings, so has he determined a share of sufferings for the 
Church to’ distribute among her members. Thereby each of 
them is to co-operate in the expiation of Jesus, whether in 
expiation of one’s own faults, or in the expiation endured, 
after the example of the Divine Master, for the faults of 
others A soul that truly loves our Lord desires to give Him 
this proof of love for His Mystical Body by means of these 
mortifications. Here is the secret of the “ extravagances 
of the saints, of that thirst for mortifications which 
characterises nearly all of them : “ To fill up those things 
that are wanting ” to the Passion of their Divine Master 
The Church has naturally to legislate as to the work ot 
expiation which concerns her as a whole. She has fixed, 
for all her children a share of mortification which notably 
comprises the observances of Lent, of Fridays, of the Lmber 
Days and Vigils. One who is little enlightened prefers his 
own mortifications to these ; but it is beyond doubt tha 
the expiations imposed by the Church are more pleasing o 
God and more salutary for our souls. 

The reason for this is clear. AH the value of our sufier- 
ings and self-denial is derived from their union, throug 
faith and love, with the sufferings and merits of JeF 1 *’ 
without Whom we can do nothing. Now, who is more unite 
to Christ than the Church, His Bride ? The mortifica ons 
she lays upon us are her own ; it is as His Bride that she a op 
and officially presents them to God ; these mortihca ons 
become like the natural prolongation of Christ s expiations , 

presented by the Church herself they are extremely accep ® ® 

to God Who sees in them the closest and deepest participatio 
that souls can have in the sufferings of His Beloved bon. 

Moreover, these mortifications are very salutary or u . 

Tlie Church herself tells us, at the beginning o > 
that she has “ instituted them as a salutary remedy 
only for our souls but also for our bodies ^ Ann 
corporibusque curandis salubriter inslitutum est . 

’• S. Augustin. It '.mural, in Ps. lxxxvi, 5- — 2. Collect lor the Saturday 
after Ash Wednesday. 



jyg CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

Do not forget either that in the course of the holy forty 
days, the Church prays daily for those who submit to these 
expiations ; she unceasingly beseeches God that these works 
may be accepted by Him ; that He will make them bene fiend 
to us • that He will give us strength to perform them with 
the piety befitting disciples of Christ and with a devotion 
that' nothing can trouble : Ut jejuniorum veneranda solemnia 
et congrua pidate suscipiant ct secura devotione percurrant 1 . 
This constant prayer of the Church for us is powerful over 
the Heart of God, and becomes a fount of heavenly benediction 
which makes our mortifications fruitful. 

If then we wish " to be Christ’s, ” as St. Paul says, let 
us accept, with great faith and generosity, these mortifica- 
tions of the Church ; in God’s sight, they have a value and 
a power of expiation which other afflictive practices do not 


possess. 

We shall therefore not be astonished that our great 
Patriarch, the heir in this of the piety of the first ages, 
consecrates a long chapter of his Rule to the observance of 
Lent. He desires that during this holy season, besides the 
fast and abstinence, we should keep ourselves “ in all purity 
of life ; and repair the negligences of other times ” : Omnes 
negligenlias aliorum temporum his diebus sanctis dilucre 2 . 
“ This is what we shall worthily do, ” he adds, “ if we 
abstain from all vices, and apply ourselves to prayer with 
tears, to holy reading, compunction of heart and abstinence. ” 
You see that to the expiation that afflicts the body, St. Be- 
nedict is careful to join inward mortification and especially 
the exercise of that sense of compunction which is, as it 
were, the will to do uninterrupted penance. 


III. 


After the penances instituted by the Church rank the 
mortifications and self-renunciation inherent to the monastic 
state. 

We must first name the common life. However much 
it be sweetened by fraternal charity, however fervently mu- 
tual love reigns, the common life still bears with it a great 
deal of suffering. We love one another very much mutually, 
with sincere affection, and yet, without wishing it,' we jar 
upon one another. This is part of the very condition of 
our poor human nature. Since sin entered the world, we 
are all, says St. Augustine, men subject to death, infirm, 

r. Collect for Ash Wednesday. — 2. Rule, ch. xlix. 


SELF-RENUNCIATION 


179 


k bearing earthen vessels, which rub against each 
Ther- Sumus homines mortales, fragiles, infirtni, l idea vasa 
^nr/anies auae f admit invicem angustias 1 . 

^°The history of the lives of the saints is full of this want 
concord these misunderstandings and dissensions resulting 
from temperament, from character, the turn of mind, educa- 
tion and the ideal formed by each one. Were there in mo- 


nasteries none but holy religious, worthy of canonisation 
tw would still have to suffer from the common life ; and 
this^ suffering can be so much more acute in as far as the 


mind is more refined and the soul more delicate. No com- 


munity, however fervent it may be, to whatever Order it 
may belong, escapes this law, any more than the greatest 

Sa Lookarthe C Apostles. Were they not at the best school 
of sanctity ? During three years, they were able to con- 
template Jesus, to listen to His teaching and he umler the 
direct influence of His Divine grace. Now what do we 
read in the Gospel ? Two' of them, to > the exclusion of the 
others, ask for a special place in Christ s Nmgdom ; before 
the Last Supper there is again a strife, amongst the , 
which of them should seem to be the greater, to such 
a degree that our Lord has to rebuke them anew* Later, 
St Peter and St. Paul are at variance ; St. Barnabas who, 
for quite a long time, had accompanied St. Paulin his ‘Poach- 
ing, has one day to separate from him . t ey 
agree. St. Jerome and St. Augustine do not always under- 
stand one another, anymore than St. Charles Borromeo an 

St. Philip of Neri. 1 , , 

Thus human nature has at times such wea . ' • 

deficiencies that even souls who sincerely seek o 
most united together in tne charity of Chris , 
subjects of mortification for one another. And P 1 : n 

in every clime, in every latitude, in every com nnt -;,?l ce 

the world. Now, to endure this friction daily, P ' 

with charity, without ever complaining, cons 1 u 

real mortification. , • Iir „ n f 

Thus our holy Patriarch, who had such great e p 

the human heart, who knew that everywhere u . ’ 

even among the best, has its infirmities and m^enes, 
insists upon our duty of patiently enduring PA _ 

infirmities : Infirmitates suas sive corpormn siv ' . 

tientissime tolerant \ When these little dissensions arise 


1. Serrno X dc Verbis Domini. P. L. 38, Sermon lx jx. 

=8 ; Marc, x, 35-45. — 3. Luc. xxii, 24-25. — -»• Rule > ch ‘ LX 




l8o CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

, . , , , ve ]i calls " thorns of scandal ”, Scandalorum 

resentment, lest it oe gi ^ i* 2 On subiect 

dante ante sclis occasmn m pacem redire . On this suDject 

he introduces into the holy liturgy itself a practice inspired 
v the purest spirit of the Gospel. He prescribes that the 
Abbot shall say ? the Pater noster aloud every day in choir, 
at Lauds and Vespers, in the name of the monastic family , 
S that when W e ask our Heavenly Father to for^ve _us 
our own offences, we may not forget in our turn to forgive 

our brethren if they offend us. . , 

So true is it that the common life easily becomes a continual 
source of friction for our weak nature,. But for those who 
seek God, this life is transformed into one of boundless and 
unremitting charity : Si angustiantur vasa carms, dilatentur 
spatia caritatis 4 ! 


To the mortifications of common life which result from 
the social order of things, are to be added those of the vows 
with their precise object and character of a contract between 
us and God. Constant fidelity to our engagements consti- 
tutes a veritable mortification : we are, by nature, so inclined 
to independence, so fond of liberty and change ! It is true 
that faithful souls observe their vows with gladness, fervour 
and love ; but this observance remains none the less an 
immolation for nature. Let us again look at our Divine Sa- 
viour in His Passion. We know that He accepted it out of 
love for His Father, and that this love was immense : That 

the world may know, that I love the Father ” : Ut cognoscat 
ntundus quia diligo Patron G . But did He not suffer despite 
this love ? Certainly He did : what suffering has ever 
equalled His suffering which He accepted on coming into 
this world ? Hear .the cry which escapes from His Heart 
crushed beneath the burden : " My Father, if it be possible, 
let this chalice pass from Me. Nevertheless not as I will, 
but as Thou wilt 0 . ” Love for His Father lifted Him 
above the shrinking of His sensitive native. And yet His 
agony was terrible, His sorrows indescribable. His Heart, 
says the Psalmist, became like wax, melting beneath the inten- 
sity of suffering 7 . But because He remained fastened to 
the Cross by love. He gave His Father infinite glory, worthy 
of the Divine perfections. 

We, too, fastened ourselves to the cross on the day of 


i. Rule, ch. xiii. — 2. Ibid. iv. — 3. Ibid. xm. — 4. S. Aug. L. c. 
Joan, xiv, 31. — 6. Matth. xxvi, 39. — 7. Ps. xxi, 15. 


SELF-RENUNCIATION 


181 

profession • we did so out of love ; and if we remain faith- 
argCP Of immolation it is still through love. This 
f , u ‘°t prevent nature from feeling pain. Y ou may ask : Is 
Jot the monastery the ante-chamber of Heaven ? Assuredly 
but to stay a long time m a place of waiting, 

11 A there to bear monotony and annoyances, can become 
singularly burdensome and require a big-dose of endurance 7 . 
We must however remain firm and be patient till Gods 
t ime • Virilitcr age et sustine Dorm mini 2 . God is never 
so near to us as when He places His Son s Cross upon our 
shoulders ; never do we give our Father in Heaven more of 
the glory that He receives from our patience than in these 
moments : Afferunt fructum in patientia 3 . 

The vows being established to procure the practice of the 
corresponding virtues, it is not astonishing that as regards 
renunaation, they lead us very far It is true one finds 
souls who after a time, submit to obedience, endure stability . 
this they do from force of habit. With them, the vow may, 
strictly speaking, remain intact ; but the virtue is absent or 
very enfeebled. Such a disposition is very poor in love of 
God. Let us, on the contrary, strive to practise from love, 
in all its extent and perfection, the virtue that serves as a 
stimulus to the vow. This love will solve all the difficulties 
that can arise in our life, will brave all the renunciations 
to which our profession obliges us. 

Difficulties, disappointments, contradictions are ever to 
be encountered in whatsoever part of the world we may • 
It is so much the more impossible to escape them in 
they have less to do with circumstances than with our m 
condition. Our Holy Father, the most discreet of re gi 
law-givers, warns us of this. Although he wishes to esta- 
blish in his Rule “ nothing too harsh or rigorous , 
however have the Master of Novices show the P os 
11 the hard and rugged things, ” dura et aspera , tha 
nature will inevitably meet with upon the path that lea 
God. But, he says °, like St. Paul, love makes us overcome 
all things : Quis 710s separabit a caritate Chnsti . ... i rop t, 
rnoriificamur tota die 7 . It is for Thy sake, 0 Go , a7 \ 
show.Thee our love, that all the day long we deny 07irs -j 
If we truly love Christ Jesus, we shall not try o 
the difficulties and sufferings that occur m -he . 

practice of the vows and observances of our monas , 


i. See above, what we said about fortitude, p. *43- -- Lf’ ibidem. 

Luo. vii, , I5t L. 4 . p ro iogue of the Rule. — 5- Rule, ch. lviii. 
on. vii 7. Rom. viii, 36. aud Rule, ch. vu. 



182 



CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

we shall embrace them as our Divine Lord embraced His 
Cross when it was offered to Him. Some have a heavier 
cross than others; however heavy it may be, love gives them 
the strength to bear it ; the unction of divine grace makes 
them cling to it instead of seeking how to cast it away, 
and in the end they come to feel affection for it as a means 
of continually testifying to their love : Aquae multae non 
potuerunt exstinguere caritatcm 1 . If a monk who for love 
of Christ to Whom he gave himself for ever on the day of 
his profession, were to remain constantly faithful to what he 
then promised, if he were to live in a spirit of poverty and 
never admit into his heart a too human and too natural 
affection, if his .whole life were to be spent in absolute depen- 
dence on his Rule and on those who represent Christ towards 
him, if he were to bear, without ever murmuring, the burden 
of the day and the uniformity inherent to the regular life 
of the cloister — this monk would give our Lord continual 
proofs of love and find God perfectly. He would have 
brought to naught within himself every obstacle that could 
have been opposed tp perfect divine union. But who will 
will show us this religious, that in him we may celebrate the 
summit of virtue 1 Quis est hie, el laudabimus eum? Fecit 
enim imrabilia in vita sua ... 2 . 

IV. 

If the first place is reserved by right, in our estimation 

a f °!!. r ™, t0 V le P enanc es prescribed by the Church 
and by the Rule the preference given to them of course 
oes not tend to dissuade from and depreciate the mortifica- 
tions wherein everyone of goodwill takes the initiative. 
Indeed in the monastery, personal initiative remains entire. 

o on y does St. Benedict safeguard it, but he positively 
encourages it. On this subject it suffices to read the chapter 

ho1vL RUe 0r V Le ,", t ' J He Wlshes that durin K these forty 
iU anpdn7e C d1n U ! d ^ ^^ng to that which is ordina- 
nce's aliauid solitn -h ^ rega . rds . God ’ s service, augeamus 
ojsatiquid solito penso servitutis noslrae 3 .- private pravers 

f ” T d h r a >»5 riK 

imposed by the hol/hegisktoS the' A ‘thisTirSta 

sffissb £ e — - ss : 

l - Cant ' V ‘ n ' 7 ' ~ Eccli ‘ ««. 9. - 3. Rule, ch. xux. 


SELF-RENUNCIATION 


183 

This liberty left by St. Benedict to private initiative is 
not limited to the season of Lent ; it extends to the whole 
life of a monk ; the holy Patriarch liimself makes this 
understood at the beginning of the abovesaid chapter. If 
at no time would he discourage the weak, he always leaves 
free scope 10 the holy ambition of the valiant : Vl sit quod, 
fortes cupiant 1 . Tiiese are the works of supereroga tion which 
the valiant alone have the strength to undertake. To those 
on the contrary who find the integral accomplishment of 
the common observance beyond their physical powers, the 
idea will come spontaneously of imposing upon themselves 
some shght penances, so that if they are obliged to renounce 
the " letter ” of the regular discipline they may at least 
have some modest pledges to give to its “spirit. " 

But whatever be the reason that instigates the exercise 
of free choice in this matter of penitential practices, St. Be- 
nedict subjects it to one essential condition 1 every project 
of mortification foreign to the rule laid down, is to be first 
of all submitted to the approbation of those who hold the 
place of Christ towards us 2 . 

The end that is here proposed by the holy Legislator is 
altogether worthy of a clear-sighted director of souls : “ If 
obedience intervenes, it will not be to reduce initiative or 
manly resolution, but to guide them and make them fruit- 
ful 3 he especially takes precautions against self-will ; he 
would avoid the danger of vainglory which so easily creeps 
in with those who undertake mortifications of their own 
choice : ‘ All that is done without permission of the spiritual 
Father shall be accounted as presumption and vainglory 
and deserve no reward ” : Quod sine permissione patris 
spiritualis fit, praesumplioni deputabilur et vanae eloriae, non 
rnercedi K 6 

Our holy Father furthermore exhorts us to offer to God, 
with the joy that emanates from the Holy Spirit, something 
beyond the measure appointed to us : Ofjerat Deo cum gaudio 
sancti Spiritus 5 . Let us be happy to have the opportunity 
of offering God some acts of penance : fervour and joy 
must needs accompany what we give to God ; magnanimity 
and generosity are joyful in the giving : Hilar cm datorem 
diligit Dens 0 . 

However, before approaching the question itself of excep- 

, *• Eu l^> c tl' LXIV, — z. Ibid. ch. xux. — 3. Abbot of Solesmes. Commen- 
° n a °f Benedict, translated by Dorn Justin Me Cann. P. 319* 

4- and 5. Rule, ch. xux. — 6. I Cor. ix, 7 and Rule, ch. v. 




184 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

tional mortifications, we must well understand the attitude 
St. Benedict recommends to us in general regarding the creat- 
ed things with which God surrounds us in our exile here 
below, and the legitimate pleasure we derive from them. 
The holy Patriarch gives us a valuable counsel in this matter : 
“Not to embrace delights,” delicias non amplecli 1 . What, 
harms the soul in this domain, is to give oneself up to them 
in excess. Christ Jesus partook of food, contemplated the 
beauties of nature, and enjoyed the charms of friendship, 
but He only gave Himself to His Father and to souls. In 
the same way, self-renunciation forbids us to let ourselves 
be carried away in the use of permitted created things ; 
and it is in following this line of conduct indicated by St. Be- 
nedict that we acquire, little by little, that holy liberty of 
soul and heart in regard to all creatures — a liberty that 
was one of the characteristic virtues of our great St. Gertrude 
and won for her most precious favours from Christ. 

To return to outward mortifications or afflictive penances, 
let us say that in this matter itself, a certain discretion must 
be kept. The degree of voluntary mortification must be 
measured according to the past state of the soul, and the 
. obstacles to be avoided ; it is for the director to fix this degree 
It would be dangerous temerity to undertake ex traordinaiy 
mortifications without being called to do so by God. In 
be . a hie to give oneself to constant macerations of 
the body is a gift of God. And this gift often constitutes 
one of His most precious favours. When God grants it to 
a soul, it is because He wills to lead her far in spiritual 
ways ; often He prepares her in this manner to receive ineffa- 

n ' Cat !°- nS ° f , His Diville & race i He delves deep 
1 n . the SOl 'r m °^ ler to empty her entirely of self, and 
wav If £ undividedly. Only, before entering into this 
w L 7 CCCSSary that . we should be called to it by God ; 
able to ,l a f n?er fl n entenng il ? f our ov >’n accord. To be 
Grace which ^i? S rea ^ fortifications, we need a special 
thfs Hrace we b l 1 T ly glve . us . lf He calls US to it ; without 
have to tabe c brea . k , down Physically and in consequence 
oplns the door?o eC1 f C !- 6 ° f ° Ur health ' And this" easily 


See Dialogue ' on the Gi^lTotsc^mnent^vu^ G ° d GaVe to s ‘ Catherine. 


SELF-RENUNCIATION jg- 

exterior renunciation, nothing should be done " without 
permission of the spiritual Father, ” for “ every one hath 
.his proper gift from God ’’ : Unusquisque proprium habet 
donum ex Deo, alius sic, alius vero sic 1 . 

: The domain where all latitude may be taken is that of 
interior mortification, which is likewise the most perfect. 
This mortification represses the vices of the mind, breaks our 
self-love and attachment to our own judgment ; it refrains 
tendencies to pride, independence, vanity, touchiness, levity, 
curiosity, and subjects us to the common life, that penance of 
penances. Let us take the order of our day : — To rise at the 
first sound of the bell, Jo go to the choir wether inclined to do 
so. or not, there to praise God with attention and fervour ; to 
accept the thousand details of the rule as they are laid 
down for work, meals, recreation, sleep ; to submit oneself 
continually to these things without ever murmuring or being 
in any way singular, forms an excellent penance which makes 
the soul greatly pleasing to God, and altogether docile to 
the action of the Holy Spirit. Consider silence, for instance. 
How many times, during the course of the day, occasions 
occur which tempt us to speak needlessly I But we say to 
ourselves : “ No, out of love for Christ, to keep the perfume 
of His Divine presence in my soul, I will not speak. " A 
single day may be thus made up of acts of mortification 
which are so many acts of love. Again another point in 
which virtue may be frequently practised, is in immediate 
obedience to the voice of God calling us to the different 
exercises: Mox exoccupatis manibus 2 , says St. Benedict. It 
meeds great virtue to put constantly into action what these 
few words signify. We are busy at our work ; the bell 
rings. We are often tempted to say “ It will only take a 
few moments to finish this. ” If we listen to this suggestion 
what is it that we do ? We prefer our own will to God’s Will, 
this is not “ forsaking ’’ our own will, nor is it what St. Be- 
nedict wants : Quod agebant imperfectum reiinquentes. Little 
things ? Yes, in themselves ; but great by reason of the 
virtue they require, great by reason of the love that observes 
them, and the holiness to which they lead. “ He who 
desires for My sake to mortify his body with many penances, ” 
said the Eternal Father to St. Catherine of Siena, “ but 
without renouncing his own will is wrong in thinking that 
this is pleasing to Me 3 . ” We only please God when we seek 
to do His good-pleasure in all things. 

*• t Cor. vii, 7. and. Rule, ch. xl. - — 2. Rule, ch. v. — 3. Dialogue, eh, x. 



l86 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

Let us also accept willingly the mortifications sent to us 
by Providence : hunger, cold, heat, small inconveniences of 
place or time, slight contradictions coming from those around 
us. You may again say that these things are trifles ; yes, 
but trifles that form part of the Divine plan for us. Is not 
that enough to make us accept them with love ? 

Finally, let us accept illness, if sent to us by God, or 
what is sometimes more painful, a state of habitual ill-health, 
an infirmity that never leaves us ; adversities, spiritual 
aridity ; to accept all these things can become very mortifying 
for nature. If we do so with loving submission, without ever 
relaxing in the service we owe to God, although heaven seems 
to be cold and deaf to us, our soul will open more and more 
to the Divine action. For, according to the saying of St. Paul, 

“ all things work together unto good ’’ to those whom God* 
calls to share His glory : omnia cooperantur in bonum iis 
qui secundum propositum vocati sunt sancti. 

V. 

Whatever be our morti fications, corporal or spiritual, those 
that afflict the body or those that repress the ill regulated 
tendencies of the mind, they are however only a means. 

In some institutes, exercises of penance and expiation play 
so preponderant a part that they constitute the very reason 
of their existence. These institutes have their own mission 
m the Holy Church, a special function in the Mystical 
.Body; for the diversity- of functions, of which St. Paul speaks, 
exists for religious orders as it does for the individual. 

1. se w , 10 ™ a ke profession in these institutes are “ vic- 
tims ; the life of continual immolation gives them a parti- 
cular character and splendour. Happy the souls whom God 
calls to the bareness of the cross ! It becomes for them 
an inexhaustible fount of precious graces. 

urhn c* SP 5 rit ° f St Benedict ^ rather to form Christians 
a ™ , at Practising every virtue in a high degree 

domain^ w T 8 o£ them ' 0ur Patriarch, in this 

n has quite _ other conceptions than some of those 

Sre^o? ^ - the J Fathers the desert and the • 

Without JSS? m l he matter of afflictive practices, 
tion his a £pfv- ng ’ * S T 6 bave ]ust seen - ext erior mortifica- 
vfrties of 15 a° W r er brou S ht t0 hear upon the 

them that , above , al1 of obedience : it is to 

tnem that he chiefly looks for the destruction of the " old 


SELF-RENUNCIATION T87 

man ” necessary to the fruition of the soul’s union with 
God'. . S| 

Finally, one truth upon which it is important to insist 
here, in relation to exterior mortification, is that, although 
renunciation is an indispensable means, afflictive practices 
have no value in themselves in the plan of Christianity. 

Their value comes to them from their union through faith 
and love with the sufferings and expiation of Christ Jesus. 

Our Divine Saviour came down upon earth to show us how 
we must live in order to be pleasing to His Father. He is 
the perfect Model of sill perfection. Now the Gospel tells 
us He ate what was set before Him, without making any ■ ! 

distinction, so much so that the Pharisees took scandal ' \ 

thereat. And our Lord tells them : " Not that which goeth 1 j 

into the mouth defileth a man : but what cometh out of the y> 

mouth, this defileth a man 2 . ” Let us then not place our !j 

perfection in exterior mortifications, even extraordinary 
ones, considered in themselves. What is above all important j 

is that we mortify ourselves and bear our sufferings out of ft 

love for our Lord as a participation in His Passion. j, 

True perfection and true holiness, ” says a great master f 

of the spiritual life, the Venerable Louis Blosius, heir in 
this of the best Benedictine traditions, “ does not lie in j 

frightful macerations nor the excessive use of instruments 
of penance ; they consist in the mortification of self-will and |.i 

of our vices, as well as in true humility and sincere charity s . ” 

Great austerity of life is excellent when added to these I 

fundamental dispositions, but everyone is not capable 

of this, while everyone can lead a life of true and holy j 

mortification if they are careful to offer continually " to i 

God the Father, the fasts, watchings and tribulations of j 

Christ's most bitter Passion 4 , ’’ and to accomplish the little 

they do in union with these sufferings of the Saviour and in 

honour of His continual and total submission to His Father’s 

Will. He who knows how to offer to God the complete ! 

submission of his free-will, after the Saviour’s example, has 

1. Rom. VI, 6. Cf. D. Morin, The Ideal of the Monastic Lite in the Apostolic : I 

Age. ch. \\\. Do penance. This perfectly characterises S* Benedict’s method on 1 • ! 

this point. — 2. Matth. xv, 16. — 3. The Mirror of the Soul, ch. vii, 3. S^Cathe- j [] 

rinc m her Dialogue sets down the same teaching of the Eternal Father: "Those \ j 

who are nourished at the table of penance are good and perfect, if their penance |! 

is founded in me with befitting discernment... with great humility, and the J 

constant study to judge according to My mil and not according to die will of 
man. If they are not thus clad with My will through true . humility, they !| 

will very often put obstacles in the way of their perfection, by making 
thems Ives judges of those who do not follow the same path as they do. ■' 

And knowest thou why they do not attain perfection ? Because they have | ;l 

exerted their zeal and desire much more in mortifying their body than in | ;i 

slaying their self-will." — 4. The Mirror of the Soul, ch. vii, 3. | i 




l88 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

a soul that is " truly detached and mortified like unto a 
ripe, tender and delicious grape ; ” he who knows not this 
self-renunciation is, on the contrary,-' for God, like " unripe 
fruit, hard and sour to the taste 1 . ” 

This thought is a very useful one to encourage us in our 
work of self-renunciation. During the day let us think of ' 
our morning Mass. We were then united to the immolation 
of Jesus and placed upon the altar with the Divine Victim ; . 
let us therefore accept generously the sufferings, the vexations, 
the burden' of the day and the heat thereof, the difficulties 
and self-denial inherent to the common life. Thus we shall 
practically live our Mass. Indeed, is not our heart an altar 
whence the incense of our sacrifice and our submission to 
His adorable Will unceasingly rises up to God ? What 
altar could be more pleasing to Him than a heart full of 
love constantly offered up to Him. For we can always 
sacrifice upon this altar, and offer ourselves with the Son 
of His love, for His glory and the welfare of souls. 

This is the teaching that our Lord Himself gave to 
St. Mechtilde. “ One day whilst she was thinking that her 
illness made her useless and that her sufferings were unavail- 
ing, the Lord said to her : ‘ Place all thy pains in My Heart 
and I will give tnem the most absolute perfection that suffer- 
ing can possess. As My Divinity drew to itself the sufferings 
of My Humanity and made them its own, so will I transport 
thy pams into My Divinity, I will unite them to My Passion 
and make thee share in that glory which God the Father 
has bestowed on My Sacred Humanity in return for all its 
sufferings. Confide, therefore, each of thy pains to Love 
in saying : ‘0 Love, I give them to thee with the same 
intention that thou hadst when thou didst bring them to 
me from the Heart of God, and I beseech thee to offer them 
to Him again, made perfect by intensest gratitude... ’ “ Mv 
Passion, added Christ Jesus, "bore infinite fruit in 
Heaven and upon earth; thus thy pains, thy tribulations 
t0 M n and united to M y Passion will be so fruitful 

for t^ e n,T U f Pr<?CUre m f e gl0f y for the elect - n ew merit 
their naintff' f °^ ven . es ? f ° r sinners, and an alleviation of 

that Mv r e S0U f ? Pur ? ator y- What is there indeed 

that My Heart cannot change for the better, since it is from 

and g on e“rth° - 7 ‘ ^ aU g0od flows faot h in Heaven 


J£n h °rt 0i ,"r P assa e e is taken from 
de Louis de Blois. (La Vie SfiirituelU An* daHS 1(1 d ° cirine spiriiuelle 

0/ special Grace, U* Au |L 9 ^P- 393^.) - 


SELF-RENUNCIATION j8g , 

I ! 

Such is the Catholic doctrine on this point. God is the first j 

Author of our holiness, the source of our perfection, but j 

we must labour at removing the obstacles that hinder His 
action in us; me must renounce sin, and the tendencies 
that give rise to it ; we must free ourselves from created 
things in as far as they prevent us' going to God. One who 
will not submit himself to this law of mortification, who 
seeks his ease and comfort, who is anxious to escape 
suffering and does all he can to avoid the cross, who puts j 

; no constraint upon himself to keep all the observances of t 

common life, will never arrive at intimate union with Christ , ; 

Jesus. This union is so precious that it must needs be bought 1 j 

with labour and toil and perpetual self-denial. We can only j 

find God fully after having removed all obstacles from our j 

path, and destroyed all that displeases Him in ourselves. 1 1 

St. Gregory — whose words are evidently a commentary j 

on the first lines of the Prologue of the Rule — says that I ! 

in cleaving to ourselves and to creatures, we separate 
ourselves from God. In order to return to Him, Ut 
ad Eurn redeas, it is to Christ, and to Christ crucified, 
that we must cleave ; we must carry the cross with Him j { 

; along the path of compunction, obedience and self-forget- 
fulness 1 . It is only by passing through the sorrows of ] 

j Calvary and the poverty of the Cross that we shall come j 

! to the triumph of the Resurrection and the glory of the | 

Ascension : Nonne oportuit Christum pati el ita inlrare in 
gloriam suam 2 . I 

With this thought we will end our conference after the 
example of our great Patriarch who thus closes his Pro- 
logue : Passionibus Christi per patientiam participemur, ut in \ 

regno ejus mereamur esse conscrtes. Mortification and self- j 

! denial are but for a time ; the life that they safeguard and 
foster in us is everlasting. It is true that here below, where 
we live by faith, the splendour of this life is hidden from j 

our eyes: Vita vestra abscondita est 3 ; but in the light of j 

heaven where there is no more darkness it will shine for i 

ever ; there will be no more crying, no more suffering ; | 

God Himself will wipe away the tears from the eyes of | 

His servants ; He will make His elect sit down at the heavenly 
feast, and will inebriate them at the ever flowing torrent of j 

x r Eegio nostra paradisus est, ad quant, Jesti cognito, redire per viam qua j 

vettitnus prohibcmur. A rcgione enim nostra superbicndo, inobedicndo , visibtha 

se Q ue ndo, cibum vet Hunt gustando disccssimus ; sed ad earn necesse est ut flendo Jj 

oucateiido, visibilia contemncndo atque appetitum carnis rcfrenando redeamus. 

£?* . x ° in Evang. The Church has inserted this passage in the Octave of J 

c ??.,. pi ? hari y 115 the 'interpretation applied to the “ per aliam viam reverst j 

urA of the Magi. — 2. Luc. xxiv, 26. — 3- Col. m, 3* 




I90 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

unalloyed delights: Etjorrente voluptatis tuae potabis eos 1 . 

We shall then see the fulfilment of those words that the 
Church, the Bride of Christ, applies to us on the day of 
our religious profession. At that decisive hour when we 
responded to the Divine call, the Abbot showed us the 
Rule. He told us by what path of renunciation we must 
go to God. And we chose to enter upon this path, to labour 
at the soil of our soul that heavenly virtues might spring 
up among the thorns and briars. “ They that sow in tears 
shall reap in joy.” Now they plough the furrows in the 
sweat of their brow, and the seeds they cast therein they 
water with their tears. The hour will come of overflowing 
joy when they will bring their full sheaves to the Lord of 
the Harvest : Euntcs ibant et flebant mittenies setnina sua : 
venientes aulem venieni cum exsultatione porlantes tnanipulos 
suos 2 . 

1. Ps. xxxv, 9. — 2. Ibid, cxxv, 5-7. 


X. — POVERTY. 


Summary. — Necessity for one who seeks God of renouncing every 
creature, material goods to begin with. — I. St. Benedict’s 
requirements concerning individual poverty. — n. How 
everything necessary is to be hoped for from the Abbot. — 
III. Exercise of the virtue of poverty inseparable from that 
of hope. — IV. Christ, the Model of poverty ; deep aspect of 
poverty in the inner life of Christ. — V. Precious blessings 
that God bestows on those who are detached. 


I N our seeking after God, we are hindered by the obstacles 
we find upon our way or within ourselves. To find God 
perfectly, we must first of all be freed from every creature 
in so far as it keeps us back on the path of perfection. The 
young man of the Gospel who comes to our Lord and asks 
wha the must do to have life everlasting, is given this answer : 
" Keep the commandments. ” “ All these have I kept from 
my youth, ” replies the young man. Then our Divine 
Saviour adds : “ If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou 

hast, and give to the poor, and come follow Me. ” At 

these words the young man goes away sorrowful. “For" 
says the Gospel, “ he had great possessions L " Riches held 
his heart captive and because of them he could not follow 
in the footsteps of Jesus. 

Our Lord has given us the immense grace of letting us 
hear His Divine voice calling us to perfection : Venite post 
Me 2 . By an act of faith in His word and in His Divinity, 
we have come to Him and have said like St. Peter : " Behold 
we have left all things, and have followed Thee ” : Ecce 
nos.reliquimus omnia et secuti sumus te 3 . We have relinquish- 
ed material goods, in order that being voluntarily poor, no 
longer having anything to hold us' back, we may fully 
consecrate ourselves to the pursuit of the one true immutable 
Good. 

If we keep ourselves in the fervour with which we totally 
abandoned all worldly possessions, we shall surely find the 
Infinite Good even here below. “ What therefore shall we 
have?" Peter asked our Lord : Quid ergo erit nobis? And 
Christ replies : “You shall receive an hundredfold and shall 
*• M atth. xix, 16-22. — 2. Marc. 1, 17. — 3. Matth. xix, 27. 


. 192 



CHRIST, THE' IDEAL OF THE MONK 

1 ! 
possess life everlasting 1 . ” God is so magnificent in His 
dealings with us, that in return for the things we leave for 
Him, "He gives Himself to us even now and here with incom- 
mensurable generosity. “ Amen, I say to you... there' is 
no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father 
or mother, or children, or lands for My sake... who shall 
not receive an hundred times as much, now in this time " : 
Amen died vobis: Nemo est qui reliquerit domum... propter, 
me... qui non accipiat ceniies tantum nunc in tempore hoc 2 . 

He puts no bounds to His Divine communications, and this 
is the one source of our true beatitude : “ Blessed are the 
poor in spirit : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven ” : Beati 
pauperes spiritu, qttoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum 3 . 

Only it is important that we always remain in that dis- 
position of faith, hope and love, whereby we left all to 
place our beatitude in God alone ; it is important that we 
should no longer be attached to what we have given up for 
ever. And this is often, very difficult. 

Thus as St. Teresa remarks, our nature is so subtile that 
it seeks to take back, in one way or another, what it has . 
once given. " We resolve to become poor, ” she writes, 
and it is a resolution of great merit ; but we very often 
take care not to be in want, not simply of what is necessary, 
but of what is superfluous ; yea, and to make for ourselves 
fnends who may supply us ; and in this way we take more 
pains, and perhaps expose ourselves to greater danger, in 
order that we may want nothing, than we did formerly, 
when we had our own possessions in our own power. ” And 
. , e great Saint adds these words which I have already 
cited but which are always good to read again : " A pleasant 
manner this of seeking the love of God! We retain our 
own affectaons, and yet will have that love, as they say, by 
handfuls... This is not well, and we are seeking things that 
are incompatible one with the other 4 . ” 

cnmH«n See f th c t j £ vo j, u ntary poverty is an indispensable 
of fhric? T° r fin v G ° d fuUy> £or bein S Perfect disciples 
onr^U^n !t 13 extremel y important, in the course of 
have on^ tlC - llfe ’ t0 ta , ke an y thin S back from what we 
Sods Mm “ reg ? rds the ren uncia tio n of exterior 
how far if pvf /? en 1 ? this renunciation consists, 

so as to nrfe+” ds, -f“ <i ™ th what virtue we ou g h t to link it ; 
our HnlvF=rt Se u m ^.Perfection. We shall see that 
y er shows himself singularly exacting upon 


Hnseil, Oh. XI, translated “ram the Danish by ”avVd LeVis 


POVERTY 


193 

this point of individual poverty, and the practice of this 
renunciation to be a very lofty form of the theological 
virtue of hope. 


Although St. Benedict does not make the word " poverty ” 
enter into the formula of the vows, he prescribes, however, 
that the monk at his profession shall distribute his goods 
to the poor, or bestow them on the monastery; he is to 
reserve nothing for himself : Nihil sibi reservans ex omnibus 1 . 
Even when parents offered their sons to the monastery, 
they had to promise that never, either of themselves, or 
through anyone else, would they give anything whatsoever 
to their son once he has become a monk, lest occasion should 
be given him of violating, to the detriment of his soul, the 
poverty that he has promised. 

Moreover, the practice of poverty enters into this conversio 
morum 2 which we vow at the moment of our profession. 
For, by this vow, we are bound to seek the perfection of 
our state. Now the exercise of poverty is necessary for 
one who wishes to be a perfect disciple of Christ. Thus 
we see our Holy Father consecrate a very remarkable chapter, 
in his Rule, to the ascetical matter which he has not espe- 
cially mentioned in the act of profession. He calls private 
ownership for the monk, " a vice " : vitium proprietatis ; a 
“ baneful vice ” : vitium nequissimum * which must be cut 
off at all costs. 

And yet has not man a natural right to possess ? The 
simple Christian living in the world can fully use his faculty 
of having possessions without compromising his salvation 
and perfection ; for, in this matter, it is not a precept but 
a simple counsel that our Lord gives when He speaks of 
leaving everything in order to be His perfect disciple. The 
action of Divine grace in the soul of the simple Christian 
is fettered only by the ill-regulated attachment which makes 
the soul a captive of exterior possessions. 

But for us who for love of Christ, and in order to follow 
Him more freely, have voluntarily renounced this right, it 
would be in some measure a sin to attempt to take it back 
unduly. 

Our Holy Legislator wishes to eliminate this vice in every 
As you know there is nothing, absolutely nothing, 
that the monk can receive or give, without leave of his Abbot, 

^ u * e > cli. LV111. — 2. Ibid. — 3. Rule, ch. xxxm. 



194 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


nothing that he can possess as his own : Ne quis praesumat 
a liquid dare ant accipere sine jussione abbatis, neque aliquid 
habere proprium, nullam omnino rem 1 ; " neither books, nor 
writing-tablets nor pen, nor anything whatsoever ” : Neque 
codicem, neque tabulas, neque graphium, sed nihil omnino 2 . 

What is still more significant is the last means he points 
out by which a monk may dipossess himself of every object : 
the monk has not even power over his own body or his own 
will : Quippe quibus nee corpora sua nec voluntates licet habere 
in propria voluntate 3 . This is the application of the words 
of the Gospel : Ecce nos reliquimus omnia. Our Holy Father 
goes so far to the root of the matter that he does not 
tolerate that one should account as his own, even in words 
anything whatsoever : Nec quisquam sutm esse aliquid dicat K 
The monk may not receive anything, " neither letters, nor 
eulogies 6 , or the least gifts without the order of the Abbot, ” 
and as to the gifts which have lawfully found their way into 
the enclosure it remains in the power of the head of the 
monastery to give them to whomsoever he pleases : Quod 
si jusserit suscipi, in abbatis sit potestate cui illud jubeat dari a . 
St. Benedict takes care to warn the monk for whom the 
gift had originally been intended by those outside “ not to 
be grieved, lest occasion be given to the devil 7 . " 

Why does the great Patriarch, ordinarily so wide in his 
views, enter here into such minute regulations ? It is be- 
cause a question of principle is at stake, and when it concerns 
a principle, as we have many times seen, he knows how to 
show himself uncompromising. The principle here involved 
^ 'r on authority, and detachment of 

heart. To give or receive anything without the Abbot’s 
permission, is an act of independence, and nourishes the 
spmt of ownership. And nothing is so contrary to the 
absolute detachment that we have vowed. 

We must then have nothing of our own. You perhaps 
l /* 0 fh 0Ur i Se r \ am quite at rest on that point. ' If it 
detprh^ an w G ° d f ° r , lt ’ for U is . a Sreat grace to be fully 
therp ic ™ °' vever > kt us examine things more closely, for 

It ™f than u ne way 0f havin e anything of one’s own. 

last n a V v eV £ n 1^ / question hef e of hoarding. At the 

Possessed to ap P ear before God, if we had 

possessed the least hoard. But, without going so far as 


The* euw’y^s ^operly~speak^ni' *thp * Ib ^‘ , - 4*. Ib ^* - 5. Ibid. ch. uv. 
the faithful during the solemn P/??* °l ^ les sed bread distributed to 
exist among Christians Bv extend,!, ■ symbolised the union that should 
holy pictures, medals, relifs* —6. Ib&. — S y! e ibid haS beC “ appIied to frait < 


POVERTY 


195 

this, there are different fashions of making any object what- 
soever "one’s own. ” It may happen, for example, that a 
religious makes himself from the very first so difficult that 
he surrounds some book or other object with a hedge of 
thorns, so to speak, and in such a way that no one dare 
ask it from him. In theory, this object is foi the common 
use ; in fact, it has become the property of this religious. 
Little things, in themselves ; but the detachment resulting 
from them can become dangerous for the soul’s liberty; 
the principle of our perfection itself is at stake. 

” Let all things be common to all, ’’ says our Holy Father. 
That is one of the characters of monastic poverty such as 
he intends it to be : Omnia omnibus sint comnmnia 1 : by these 
words he refers to the community of goods that existed 
between the faithful of the early Church. He ordains that 
“ anyone who treats the things of the monastery in a slovenly 
or negligent manner shall be punished 2 . ’’ Why this seve- 
rity ? Because the monastery being the ” house of God, “ 
all things in it ought to be considered “ as if they were 
the consecrated vessels of the altar ” : Omnia vasa monasterii 
cunctamque substantiam, ac si aliaris vasa sacraia conspiciat 3 . 

Once more in this lofty motive, we see the deeply super- 
natural and " religious ” character with which the holy 
Legislator wishes to steep the monk’s whole existence, even 
in the least details. 

II. 

The care of these goods, " sacred " in the sight of the great 
Patriarch, is confided to the Abbot. It is for him to provide 
for all the necessities of his monks ; he is the shepherd of 
the flock, the father of the family, and it is from him, says 
St. Benedict, that the monk must hope for everything: 
Omnia a patre sperare monasterii 4 . A profound saying and 
one which marks the character of our poverty. 

The monk is to look for everything from the Abbot. At 
our profession we despoiled ourselves of everything and put 
ourselves in the hands of the Abbot ; it is through him 
that God will give us what is necessary. 

Our Holy Father follows this chapter on poverty with 
another chapter entitled : “ Whether all ought alike to 
receive what is necessary 5 ." Again citing, in his reply, 
the Acts of the Apostles, where it is said : “ distribution 

rh I 'v^ u,e ‘ cll ‘ xxxm. — 2. Ibid. ch. xxxii. — 3. Ibid. ch. xxxi. — 4. Ibid, 
ch. xxxiii. — 5 . ibid, ch. xxxiv. 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



I96 


was made to everyone according as he had need, ” St. Be- 
nedict adds that the Abbot " ought not to have respect 
of persons but consideration for infirmities. ’’ Necessities 
are not mathematically the same ; one has need of more, 
another of less. As the Abbot has not infused knowledge, 
we ought to tell him our needs with simplicity, and to 
confide ourselves to him, for he is the father of the monastic 
family. What does not come from the Abbot does not come 
from God ; never let us then try to obtain anything, however 
small it may be, by roundabout means ; do not let us be 
diplomatic in order, as St. Teresa says, to make friends who 
will give us what we want. 

A trait in the life of St. Margaret Mary shows how pleasing 
to God is this manner of expecting everything from our 
Superior. The Saint had revelations sometimes from the 
Saviour touching the line of conduct that her director, PSre de 
la Colombiere, should follow. One day when the latter was 
setting out for England, she sent him some words of advice 
amongst which the following were contained : that he should 
take great care not to draw good (direct) from its source. ” 
She further told him that this short saying contained much 
which God would give him to understand according to the 
way he acted on it. Pere de la Colombiere read and re-read 
this phrase without at first comprehending its meaning ; 
but, some days later, during prayer, our Lord gave him 
light on it. On account of the difficult situation in which 


he found himself, being in a land of persecution, he received 
a small pension from his relations. This was not without 
his Superior’s permission but the pension did not pass through 
the latter s hand ; and Christ gave Pere de la Colombiere to 
understand that this was not pleasing to Him. “ I under- 
stood, wrote P. de la Colombiere, “that this saying con- 
tains much because it concerns the perfection of poverty. . . and 
that this is the fount of a great inward and outward peace l . ” 
It i s the same for us. Everything is to be looked for 
from the father of the monastery : Omnia a patre sperare 
monasteni. For all that has to do with the health, clothing, 
lood, exceptions, and all else, let us with confidence tell our 
wants to the Abbot or to those whom he has delegated to 
replace him in this domain. See what our holy Legislator 
writes on this subject ; his words show, as ever, with much 
exactitude and discretion, the supernatural line of conduct 
that we should follow : " Let him who has need of less give 




POVERTY 


I97 

thanks to God, and not be grieved thereby ; and let him who 
requireth more be humbled by his infirmity and not be made 
proud by the mercy shewn to him 1 . " And St. Benedict 
concludes with this sentence so full of his spirit: Ei it a 
omnia membra crunt in pace, 2 " and thus all the members 
of the family will be at peace. " Peace is the fruit of de- 
tachment ; the soul has no longer any disquietude ; it belongs 
altogether to God. 

It certainly requires great faith to conform ourselves per- 
fectly to this programme : but we may be persuaded that 
if we observe all the points of it, God will not fail us in 
anything, and our soul will taste deep peace because it will 
look for everything from Him Who is the Beatitude of all 
the Saints. . 11 


As to the Abbot, he is to provide for all things. To 
enable him to do this, St. Benedict leaves the monastery 
the power of possessing. In the practice of poverty the 
great Patriarch does not understand it as it has been under- 
stood and carried out since St. Francis of Assisi’s day 3 . 
St. Paul says, there is but one Spirit Who governs and 
directs the Church of Jesus but the inspirations of this Spirit 
are manifold 4 . It is the same as to the ways that He opens 
out : these are very varied although they all have in view 
the perfection of Christ's Mystical Body : In aedificatiouem 
corporis Christi ®. To the wonderful Poverello of Assisi, the 
Holy Spirit inspired a radical form of poverty touching not 
only individuals, but the convent itself ; and for the sons of 
St. Francis this is an inexhaustible fount of precious graces. 
The same Spirit gave to our holy Legislator another direction, 
supernatural also and not less fruitful. In the Benedictine 
Order,, individual detachment is to be carried as far as 
possible, but the monastery may have possessions. 

Our Holy Father bids the postulant, about to make pro- 
fession, to choose either to distribute his goods to the poor 
or give them to the' monastery, and in this latter case, he 
p es ■ care wra P this donation in solemn legal forms : 
Res si qnas habet aut eroget prius pauperibus, aut facta solcm- 
****?" donatione, conjcrat monasterio °. In the intention of 
bt. Benedict, the monastery keeps the faculty of possessing, 
and our whole tradition, in accord with the Church, has con- 
firmed this concept. 


6. Rule, ch, lviu. 




198 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

We know, moreover, how the splendour of Divine worship 
has benefited with us from this state of things ; again it is 
thanlcs to this, that, in the course of centuries, our abbeys 
nave so often been able to relieve, Christ in His disinherited 
members, with abundant alms. Certainly this use of earthly 
goods had been clearly foreseen by our Holy Father. 

For all that concerned charity towards the neighbour, he 
showed himself great and wide-hearted. We see how in a 
time of famine he ordered that the small quantity of oil 
remaining in the monastery should be distributed to the 
poor ; you know how he -caused the vessel of oil, that the 
disobedient cellarer had kept in spite of his command, to be 
thrown out of the window end what miracle God wrought 
-at St. Benedict’s prayer in order to reward this charity 1 . 
We likewise see by the life of our Patriarch that the monastery 
of Monte Cassino had provisions 2 ; St. Benedict, full of the 
spirit of the Gospel, intends that even material misery shall 
be succoured ; he wishes guests, pilgrims, and the poor to 
be welcomed at the monastery 3 . Among the " instruments 
of good works ” he points out that of " relieving the poor " : 
■pauper es recreate and he orders the monk, charged with 
the temporal administration of the monastery, to have 
especial care of the poor : Pauperuvi cum omni sollicitudinc 
curam gerat °. It is evident that these very clear precepts 
of the holy Legislator could only be carried out if the monastic 
confraternity had goods at its disposition. 

III. 


Let us return to that individual poverty which the monk 
ought to embrace so closely and let us try to enter more fully 
into its spirit. We should understand it wrongly if we limited 
it to material privation. There are some rich people who 
are detached from their riches, according to the saying of 

tn - use this worl . d - as if th ey used it not 0 ” ; in 

,°t their wealth, their heart is free ; they are of those 
poor in spirit to whom Christ has promised His Kingdom. 

andrli™ P .°.° r ? e0ple ’ 0n the C0I1 trary, who covet riches, 
f , attachment to the little they possess ; their 

of their I5 0al y m atenal. Have these poor people the virtue 

k C , ertainl 2 not! As . the Kingdom of God 

above nil ' 16 ^ e ? rt ’ Regnum Dei intra vos est 1 — it is 

s r ln nT h T eart that the vir t ue of poverty is perfected 

Rule, ch. Lm. — ^7ibid. chM v. — TlMd'ch “'/fr XXIX ' ~ l' 

Luc. xvii, 21. 5 1Dia * cn * XXXI. — 6. I Cor. vii, 31. — 7 * 


POVERTY 



199 

and developed : one can be poor while wearing the robes of 
a king. The man who is perfectly poor -will be ready to 
seek God alone : never let us forget that this is the end that 
St. Benedict points out to us : to seek God in the sincerity 
of our heart, that is to say, solely : Si r ever a Deum quaerit 1 . 

Now the practice of the virtue of poverty is inseparable 
from that of hope under a lofty form. What in fact is 
hope ? It is a supernatural habit which inclines the sold 
to regard God as its one Good, and from Him to hope for 
all necessary graces whereby to attain the possession of this 
supreme Good. " Thou art, 0 Lord, the portion of my 
inheritance ” : Dominus, pars hereditatis meae 2 . When in the 
soul there is living faith it comprehends that God infinitely 
surpasses all earthly goods; as St. Gregory says, speaking 
of St. Benedict, " all creatures appear as small ’’ to the 
soul that contemplates the Creator : Videnti Crealorem an- 
gusta est omnis creatura 3 . Faith shows us in the perfect 
possession of God that precious pearl of which the Gospel 
speaks ; 4 to gain it, we sell all, we leave all ; it is a homage 
rendered to the Divine Goodness and Beauty. Faith blos- 
soms into hope. The soul is so enamoured of God that it no 
longer wishes for any other good, and the privation of any 
good, except God, does- not trouble it. Deus mens el omnia 5 . 
My God, to such as extent art" Thou my All that I need 
nothing besides Thee ; I want nought but Thee ; I could not 
bear to have anything besides Thee for my heart to cling 
to ; Thou alone sufficest me, “ For what have I in Heaven ? 
and besides Thee what do I desire upon earth ? " Quid 
tnihi .est in caelo, et a te quid volui super terrain? “Thou 
art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion 
for ever ” : Deus cordis mei el pars mea Deus in aelernum °. 
Like St. Paul, the soul counts all things as dung, ut stercora, 
that so it may perfect]} 7 gain Christ : Ut Christum lucnja- 
ciam 1 . Neither is it attached to the gifts of God, although 
it may ask for them, not for their own sake, but because they 
help the soul to advance ; neither is it attached to consola- 
tions from on high, although God never severs it for ever 
from the sweetness of His service : it wants God alone. 

This is why the soul despoils itself, disengages itself, in 
order to have more liberty ; and if, even when God hides 
Himself, even when He leaves the soul in dryness and deso- 
lation, or gives Himself only in the nudity of His Divinity 


1. Rule, cb. T.VTTT. — ?. Pq. XV, 5. — 

m UI o 6, — 5 * St Francis ol Assisi. — 
1*1, 8 « 





in order to detach it not only from the earth but from itself ; 
if, I say, the soul remains faithful to seek God only, to place 
its beatitude in Him alone, it may be assured of finding, at 
last, never more to lose Him and to enjoy Him in all peace, 
this God Who surpasses all treasures : Vade, quaecumque 
habcs vcnde... cl habebls thesaurum in caelo 1 . 


Hope has another aspect : it is that of inclining us to look 
to God for all that is necessary for our sanctification. 

Monastic profession, as we have said, is a contract. When, 
having left all things for Christ Jesus, we remain faithful 
to our promise, Christ must, if' I may thus express myself, 
bring us to perfection. He has bound Himself to do this. 
" Wilt thou be perfect ? ” ' He says to us, “ Go, sell whatso- 
ever thou hast... and come 2 .” God is a father, says our 
Lord Himself ; when a child asks his father for bread, will 
he give him a serpent ? And if, adds Jesus, you who are 
evil, “ know how to give good things to your children, 
how much more, will your Father Who is in Heaven ” give 
you what is necessary for you 3 . 

And how true this is ! St. Paul tells us that the tender- 


ness, as well as the authority, of the fathers of this world 
has its source in the Heart of God 4 . And if our Heavenly 
Father loves us, what will He not give us ? While we were 
His enemies He reconciled us to Himself by the death of 
His Son : He gave Him to us that He might be our salvation 5 , 
and, says St. Paul, “ how hath He not also, with Him given 
us all things ? ” Quomodo cumillo non omnia nobis donavil 3 . 
All that we can desire for the perfection and holiness of our 
souls, we find in Christ Jesus ; .in Him are all the treasures 
o£ the Godhead : Omnes thesauri sapientiae et scicntiae 7 . 
The indubitable will of the Eternal Father is that His 
beloved Son should be our redemption, our justice; our 
sanctification 8 ; that all His merits, aU His satisfactions, — 
and their value is infinite — should be ours. You are 
made so rich in Christ, exclaims St. Paul, " that nothing 
is wanting to you m any grace 0 ” : Ua ut nihil vobis desit 
in ulla gratia 10 . 

Oh, if we know the gift of GodJ Si scires donum Dei 11 1 
'y® new what inexhaustible riches we may possess in 

from S V eS t S ’ n0t 0nly s , h . ould we not go begging happiness 
" or see W it from perishable goods but 
d . es P 011 ourselves of them as much as possible 
in order to increase, our soul’s capacity for possessing^ true 


POVERTY 


201 


treasures. We should be watchful not to attach ourselves 
to the least thing that could keep us back from God. 

It is this that gives assurance to our hope and renders 
it invincible: when our’ heart is truly loosened from all 
things, when We place our beatitude in God alone ; when 
for love of Him we detach ourselves from every creature, 
and look but to Him for all necessary graces, then God shows 
Himself magnificent towards us : He fills us with Himself : 
Ego merces tua magna nimis 1 : I, Who am God, will leave 
to none other the care of assuaging your thirst for beatitude ! 


To arrive at this supreme degree of adherence to God, it 
' has first been necessary to leave the world and despoil our- j 

selves of all ownership. We must remain in that first fervour j 

which made us forsake all things for love of Christ. Let us 1 

then be watchful that the observance of our vow of poverty ! 

remains intact. For example, let us often make the inven- | i 

tory of what we have for our use, and if we find that we 
have a fondness for anything, or that we have such or such 
an object that has not been given or permitted by the Abbot, 
let us restore it to the common use, let us cast it from us, 
projice abs te 2 , for it might become a veritable obstacle to 
the development of the perfection 'we* have vowed. Thus 
to break off from everything needs an effort, it needs gene- 
rosity ; but if we have a living faith in Christ, if our hope i 

is sincere, if our love for Him is ardent, we shall find in j 

Him, through prayer, this strength and this generosity. We i 

have all made great sacrifices to give ourselves to God on 
the day of our entering the monastery. How can we allow 
ourselves, after this, to be held captive by the nothings which 
keep back the soul from winging its flight to God ! . j 

Let us contemplate our Lord Who is our Model in all j 

things, Whom we wish to follow for love’s sake. What 
does His life teach us ? He, so to speak, espoused Poverty. j 

He was God : Non rapinam arbitratus est ,esse sc acqualem j 

Deo 3 ; legions of angels are His ministers ; with a single word, 

He drew heaven and earth out of nothing ; He decked, them I 

with riches and beauty, which are but a pale reflection of j 

His infinite perfections : Domine, quam admit abile est nomen , 
tuum in universa terra*! His power and magnificence .are j 

so extensive that, according to the Psalmist’s expression, 

He has but to open His hand to fill " with blessing every ! 

I. Gen. xv, i. — 2. Matth. v, 29-30. — 3. Philip. 11, 6, — 4 * Es- cxliv, 16. 


202 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



living creature ” : Apcris tu manttm htam, et imples onine 
animal benediciione 1 . 

And behold this God becomes incarnate to bring us to 
Himself. What way does He choose ? That of poverty. 

When the Word came into this world, He, the King of 
Heaven and earth, willed, in His Divine Wisdom, to dispose 
the details of His birth, life and death, in such a manner 
that what most transpired was poverty, contempt for the 
things of this world. The poorest are born at least under 
a roof ; He first sees the day, as He lies upon straw, in 
praesepio, for “ there was no room ” for His Mother in the 
inn 2 . At Nazareth, He leads the obscure life of a poor 
artisan: Nonne hie fabri filius 3 ? Later on, in His public 
life, He has nowhere to lay His Head although, " the foxes 
have holes 4 .” At the hour of His death, He is stripped 
of His garments and fastened naked to the Cross. He 
leaves His executioners to take possession of that tunic 
woven by His Mother ; His friends have forsaken Him ; of 
His Apostles, He sees only St. John near Him. At least. 
His Mother remains to Him : but no ; He gives Her to His 
disciple : Ecce mater tua 5 . Is not this absolute renunciation ? 
Yet He finds a means of going beyond this extreme degree 
of destitution. There are still the heavenly joys with which 
His Father inundates His Humanity ; He renounces them, 
for now His Father abandons Him : Dens meus, ut quid 
dercliquisti me 6 ? He remains alone, hanging between heaven 
and earth. 


This is the example that has filled the world with monas- 
teries, and peopled these monasteries with souls in love 
with poverty. When we contemplate Jesus poor in the 
manger, poor at Nazareth, poor upon the Cross, holding 
out His hands to us and saying : “ It is for you, ” we under- 
stand the follies of the lovers of poverty. 

Let us then keep our eyes fixed on this Divine Poor One 
of Bethlehem, of Nazareth and of Golgotha. And if we feel 
some of the effects of poverty, let us accept this generously ; do 
not let us look upon it as a world-wide calamity ! And let 
us not forget that we ought not to be poor merely out of 
convention, but because we have promised Christ really to 
leave everything to follow Him. It is at this price that 
we shall find m Him all our riches ; for if He has taken 
our miseries upon Himself it is in order to enrich us with 
His perfections ; the poverty of His Humanity serves Him , 


I. Ps. CXL1V, 16. 2. Luc. II 

5- Joan, xix, 37. _ 6, Matth. 


7 . — 3. Matth. 

XXVII, 46. 


xih, 35. — 4. Luc. ix, 58. — 


POVERTY 


203 

as the means o f coming near to us and bringing even to 
our souls the riches of His Divinity : Scitis enim gratiam 
Domini nostri Jesu Christi quoniam propter vos e genus /actus 
esl, cum esset dives, ut Mitts inopia vos divites esselis l . 

Such is the wonderful exchange made between the Divine 
Word and ourselves. He brings His infinite riches; but, let 
us remember, He brings them to those who are poor : Esu- 
rientes implevit bonis 2 ; and those who most despoil them- 
selves receive the most. 

We can never go too far in this voluntary detachment. 
There is one aspect of the inner life of Christ Jesus that 
St. John brings forward and of which the imitation forms 
a very thorough exercise of the virtue of poverty. To 
understand this aspect, let us raise our hearts and minds 
as far as the mystery of the Adorable Trinity ; but let us 
raise them with faith and reverence, for these things are 
only to be well understood in prayer. 

In the Trinity, as you know, God the Father has an attri- 
bute proper to Himself which is distinctive from His Person : 
He is the First Principle, proceeding from none : Principium 
sine principio. This is true only of the Father; the Son 
is a principle, yes ; He Himself has told us so : [Ago] principium 
qui el loquor vobis 3 , only this is relatively to us ; with the 
Father and the Holy Spirit, He is the fount of all life for 
every creature. But when we speak of the Three Divine 
Persons, the Father alone is the Principle proceeding from 
no other Person ; from Him proceeds the Son ; and, from 
the Father and the Son, proceeds the Holy Spirit. This 
attribute is personal to the Father. 

The Son, even as God, holds everything from the Father : 
Omnia quae dedisti mihi abs ie sunt*. The Son, in beholding 
His Father, can say to Him that all that He is, all that 
He has, all that He knows, is from His Father because He 
proceeds from Him, without there being between the First 
and Second Person, either inequality, or inferiority, or 
succession of time. This is one side of the mystery. _ 

This sublime truth is especially revealed to us in the 
Gospel of St. John 5 where Our Lord constantly protests that 
He holds everything from His Father. Consider for a 
moment the mystery of the Incarnation. The Sacred Hu- 
manity of Christ Jesus is perfect, integral ; nothing is wanting 
to It which can constitute and adorn human nature ; 
Per jeclus homo 3 . And yet it has no proper personality: 

II Cor. viii, 9. — 2. Luc. 1, 53. — 3. Joan.__vm, 35- — 4- Ibid, evil, 7. 
5* Ch. v, vii, viii, xiv. — 6. Creed attributed to St. Athanasius. 




204 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

there is no human person in Christ. It is the Word Who, 
in Him, is the Person, and it is in the Word that the Human 
Nature subsists.- This 'is an ineffable mystery. 

In the words of Jesus we shall find some expressions of 
this mystery. He tells us, — and it is the Incarnate Word 
Who speaks — " My doctrine is not Mine, but His that 
sent Me ” : Mea doctrim non est mea, sed ejus qui misit Me 1 . 
He says again, " I do nothing of Myself, but as the Father 
hath taught Me, these things I speak " : A meipso facto 
nihil, sed sicut docuit me Pater, haec loquor 2 . He then adds 
in all truth that He seeks not His own will nor His own glory, 
but that of Him Who sent Him 3 . This glory is to refer 
everything to His Father, by Whom He is begotten : the 
Father gives all to Him and the Son refers all to His Father, 
as the Principle whence He proceeds : Pater, mea omnia tua 
sunt, et tua mea sunt i . True of the Humanity of Jesus, it is 
likewise so, in a very lofty sense, of His Divinity. The Son 
has not anything that He has not received from the Father ; 
He proceeds from Him wholly ; when the Father beholds 
His Son, He sees that there is nothing in this Son that 
does not come from Him ; and this is why all is Divine in 
the Son, all is perfect, and this is. also why the. Son is the 
object of His Father’s love. Filins dilectionis suae*. 

This aspect, one of the deepest and most essential in the 
life of Jesus Christ, should enlighten us as to what our poverty 
ought to be. Let us imitate Christ in being not only ma- 
terially poor but poor of spirit ; let us imitate Him in despoil- 
ing of ourselves of all that is our own, of all that 'comes from 
self : attachment to our own judgment, our self-love, our 
self-will, which are so many forms of “ the vice of ownership, ’’ 
in order that we may no longer have any but the thoughts, 
the desires, and the will of God, and no longer act save from 
motives that come from on high. Then, everything in us will 
proceed, as it were, from God. God will see in us the realisa- 
tion of the Divine idea that, from all eternity^ He has formed 
for us. When in our thoughts and actions we add something 
that is not from God, something that comes from our own 
self, sin or imperfection, we impair God’s image within us. 
God then sees in us some proprium ; and as this proprium 
does not come from Him, it does not go, it cannot go, to God. 
The great obstacle to heavenly grace, to the love of God, 
is this “ vice of ownership ’’ which in our case is manifested 
not only by possessing or disposing of material things, or 

i. Joan, vii, 16. — 2. Ibid, vm, 28, cf. xiv, 10. — 3. vm. 50. — 4. Ibid 

xvii, 10. — 5, Cf. Col. 1, 13. • ■ ’ 


POVERTY 


205 

even by simple attachment to these things, but still more 
by inordinate attachment to what is personal or proper to 
ourselves. In the two following conferences we will point 
out in detail how, by humility and obedience, we can arrive 
at entirely despoiling ourselves of self-love, self-esteem, and 
self-will. But it has been expedient for us now to bring 
together the different aspects of the same vice, this " vice 
of ownership ” which forms a radical obstacle to Divine 
communications and produces a thousand fruits of sin and 
death. " Pride, ” said our Lord to Blessed Angela of Foligno, 
“ can exist in those alone who possess anything or believe 
that they possess anything. Man and angel fell, and fell 
by pride, because they believed they had something of their 
own. But neither angel nor man has aught of himself ; all 
belongs to God 1 ." 

We hence understand why St. Benedict, so enlightened 
upon the ways of God, wishes that the spirit of ownership in 
us should be “ cut off by the roots ” : Radicitus amputetur 2 . 

V. 

When this holy destruction has been wrought, God puts 
no bounds to His graces :'i the Kingdom of God is promised 
by Jesus to “ the poor in spirit. " This Kingdom is first of 
all within us ; it is established in us in the very measure that 
we strip ourselves of every creature and of self. All our 
spiritual life consists in the imitation of Christ Jesus. The 
Word, bring the Son of God, proceeds entirely from His 
Father, He lives by Him, He lives for Him : Ego vivo propter 
Patrem 3 ; this sums up the whole life of Jesus, the Incarnate 
Word. It will be proportionately the same for us ; the more 
tnat our life and aims flow from God, the more that our 
activity finds the source of its inspirations in the will of God 
-—the higher and more supernatural will our life too become. 
We need great abnegation in order to establish this disposition 
in us and never to seek the principle of our actions save in 
God ; for the natural instinct of man urges him to make 
himself his own centre and 1 to seek the principle of his life 
in himself alone, in that which is personal and proper to 
himself. On the contrary the life of our soul must be en- 
tirely subject to the Divine good pleasure and must have no 
movement that does not come from the Holy Spirit. 

This is what we ask of our Lord each morning at Prime, 
on beginning the day. “ O Lord our God, King of heaven 

I. Book of Visions, oh. lv. — 2. Rule, ch. xxxm. — 3. Joan, vi, 58. 



S 06 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

and earth, vouchsafe this day to direct and sanctify, to 
rule and govern our hearts and our bodies, our feelings, 
our words, and our works, according to Thy Law, and in 
the doing of Thy commandments... O Saviour of the world, 
Who livest and reignest world, without end " : Dirigere et 
sanctificare, regcre et gttbernare dignare, Dotnine Deus, Rex 
caeli et terrae, hodie, corda et corpora nostra, sensus, sermones 
el actus nostros, in lege tua, et in operibus mandatorum tuorum. 
We here ask the Word to direct, to take in hand all that is 
in us ; our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, all that we 
are, all that we have, all that we do. All that is ours will 
then come from God through Jesus Christ and His Spirit, 
and will return to God. We shall bring our personality 
into subjection to Christ Jesus, in order to destroy what is 
bad in us, and to make all that is good converge towards 
the doing of His Divine will : then without ceasing to remain 
ourselves, we shall do everything under the impulsion, 
by the action of His grace and of His Spirit. It will be no 
longer in our self-love, our self-esteem, nor our self-will, 
that we shall seek the mainspring of our thoughts, words, 
and deeds, but in the love of Christ’s will, in cleaving to 
His law : In lege tua et in operibus mandatorum tuorum. 
We shall have laid down our personality to put on Christ : 
Christum induistis 1 . Doubtless, in this union of ourselves 
with the Word, two distinct persons always remain, for this 
union is only moral,- but we can strive to subject our perso- 
nality in the order of activity so perfectly to the Word, 
that this personality will disappear as far as possible leaving 
to the Divine Word all the initiative of our life. 

. The same prayer contains moreover the principle on which 
it rests, namely, that the Word is King, King of heaven and 
of earth. The Word, lives and reigns in God : Vivit et regnat 
Deus. Christ only lives where He reigns ; He is essentially 
King ; He lives in us in the degree that He governs all in 
us, that He reigns over our faculties, that He rules our acti- 
vity. When all within us comes from Him, that is to say 
when we no longer think save as He thinks, when we no 
mnger will save as He wills, when we act only according to 
His good pleasure, we place our whole self in subjection at 
His teet ; then He reigns in us ; all that is proper to us, 
a , t .„ ls Personal, disappears to give place to the thoughts 
and wiU of the Divine Word. This domination of Christ 
n hm us must be complete. We ask this a hundred times 
a nay: Advemal regnum luum! May that day come, 0 

i. Gal. iii, 27. 


POVERTY 


Lord, when Thou wilt reign entirely in me ; when no selfish 
motive will hinder Thy power in me, when, like Thee, I 
shall be entirely yielded up to the Father, and nothing 
within me will be opposed to the Holy Spirit’s action I 

On that day we shall have done all that within us lies, 
to bring our own personality to naught before the dominion 
of Christ. ' He will truly be for us " All in all ’’ : Omnia in 
omnibus 1 ; morally speaking, we shall no longer have anything 
of our own ; all vail be subject, all will be given to Him ; 
this is to be pauper spiritu. Who are those whom Our Lord 
calls pauper es spiritu z ? Those who own nothing either in 
mind, heart, or will, who wish to have nothing except from 
God. Daily they lay down their own judgment, their manner 
of seeing things, their will, everything, at the feet of Christ ; 
they say to Him : " I do not want to have anything of myself; 
I want to have only what comes from Thee, to do only that 
which, from all eternity. Thou, as the Word, hast decided 
for me : to realise Thy own divine ideal concerning me. ” 
They can then make their own the words which literally 
belong to St. Paul: Vivo autem, jam non ego; vivit vero in 
me Chrislus 3 . " I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me ; ” 
but this will not be without having heroically taken the 
same means as he did. The Apostle did not arrive in one 
day at this consummate union, for his personality was of a 
rare power. A succession of immolations had made all that 
was contrary to the Christ-life die within him, and leave the 
initiative of all his movements to the Spirit. 

This is perfection at its height. On the day of our profes- 
sion we renounced the principal motives which bring all 
natural human activity into play : m-oney, love, indepen- 
dence ; we are in the best conditions for the divine life to 
be able to take full possession of us. Let us then try to 
despoil ourselves as completely as possible, not only of created 
things but even, in the domain of our activity, of our perso- 
nality ; let us try to act in such a way that, through prayer 
and through our eyes being ever fixed upon our Model, 
all our motives may be supernatural, so that the Father’s 
Name may be sanctified. His Kingdom come and His Will 
be done : — then our whole life will be truly deified. 

Then, too, our whole life, returning to God, will become 
like an unceasing hymn of praise, extremely pleasing to our 
Heavenly Father. Enlightened, inspired, united, through 
His Word and His Spirit, Spiritu Dei aguntur *, we shall 
be able to say : " The Lord ruleth me ’’ : Dominus regit me. 

*• 1 Cor - XV, 28. — 2. Matth. v, 3. — 3. Gal. 11, 20. — 4. Rom. vm, 14. 



208 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


And at once we shall add with the Psalmist : " And I shall 
want nothing”: Et nihil tnihi deerit 1 . For the Father, 
beholding in us only what comes from HimSelf, from the 
grace of His Son and the inspiration of His Spirit, beholding 
us, according to His desire, united in all things to His Son, 
embraces us with the same love of complacency that He 
bears to His own Son and pours out upon us the inexhaustible 
riches of His Kingdom. Our work has been to lay aside 
self that we may be led to God by Christ. Christ Jesus 
then carries us with Him to His Father, in sinu Patris 2 ; 
. for it is essential to the Son “ to belong to His Father ; ” 
and, all that belongs to the Son belongs to the Father: 
Mea omnia iua suni. 

But likewise all the benedictions poured out upon the 
Son become our lot and our inheritance : Tu es qui reslitues 
heredilalem meam mihi s . God abandons to the nothingness 
of their pretended riches those who, believing themselves 
to possess something, confide in themselves ; but His infinite 
mercy fills the needy, who hope only in Him, with gifts 
from on high : Esurientes implevit bonis, et divites dimisit 
inanes 3 . 

i. Ps. xxii, i. 3. Roman Pontifical, Ordo ad cUricum faciendum. — 3. 
Luc. I, 53. * 


XI. — HUMILITY. 


Summary. — One of the greatest obstacles to the Divine \ | 

outpourings is formed by pride ; humility removes this j . 

obstacle. — I. Necessity of humility. — II. St. Benedict’s i 

concept of humility and the important place he gives to it in 
the inner life. Nature of this virtue. — III. What St. Thomas, 
following the example of St. Benedict, assigns as the root of 
humility : reverence towards God, to which the holy Patriarch 
allies the most absolute confidence. — IV. Degrees of humility 
laid down by St. Benedict ; the two first degrees of interior 
humility equally concern simple Chritians. — V. The degrees 
that are, properly speaking, monastic. — VI. Exterior j 

humility; its necessity, its degree. — VII. How humility 
accords with truth and is allied to confidence. — VIII. The 
most precious fruit of this virtue : it most efficaciously 
prepares the soul to receive the abundance of Divine 
outpourings, and perfect charity. — IX. Means of attaining 
this virtue : prayer ; contemplation of the Divine perfections ; 
consideration of the humiliations of Christ Jesus. — X. Christ 
makes the humble soul share in His heavenly exaltation. 

O ne of the greatest revelations that Our Lord has given ■ 

to us through His I ncarnation is that of God’s immense j 

desire to communicate Himself to our souls in order to 
be their beatitude. God might have dwelt throughout eternity 
in the fruitful solitude of His one and triune Divinity ; 

He has no need of the creature, for nothing is wanting to 
Him Who, alone, is the fulness of Being and the First Cause 
of all things : Bonorum meorum non eges l . But having de- 
creed, in the absolute and immutable liberty of His sovereign 
Will, to give Himself to us, the desire He has of realising 
this Will is infinite. We might be tempted at times to 
believe that God may be " indifferent, ” lhat His desire to 
communicate Himself is vague, inefficacious ; but these are 
human conceptions, images of the weakness of our nature, 
too often unstable and powerless. In God all is pure act ; 
that which in our miserable language we call “ Divine 
desire, ” is an act really indistinct from the Divine essence, 
and consequently infinite. . j 

In this, as in all that touches our supernatural life, we I 

>• Ps. XV, 2. I 






210 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

must allow ourselves to be guided not by our imagination, 
but by the light of Revelation. It is God Himself to whom 
we must listen when we vish to know the Divine Life ; 
it is towards Christ that we must turn, towards the Beloved 
Son Who is ever " in the Bosom of the Father ”, in sinit 
Patris 1 , He Who has Himself revealed the Divine secrets : 
Ipse cnarravit. What does He tell us ? That God so loved 
men, that He has given them His Only-begotten Son : Sic 
Deus dilexit munduin ui Filium sttum unigenitum daret 2 . 
And why has He given Him ? That He may be our justice, 
our redemption, our holiness. Christ Jesus, in obedience to 
His Father, Sicut mandatum dcdit mihi Pater 3 , delivered 
Himself up to us even to the death of the Cross, even to the 
state of the Host, even to be our Food : in finem. Would 
God have carried love to these extremes if He did not in- 
finitely desire to communicate Himself to us ? For, ac- 
cording to the thought of St. Thomas, God's love is not a 
passive love, since being the First Cause of all things, He 
cannot receive anything : it is an efficacious love, necessarily 
efficient 4 . And because God loves us. He wishes with an 
unbounded love and an efficacious will, to give Himself to us. 

But then, one might ask, why does He not give Himself 
infallibly ? Why are souls to be found to whom God does 
not communicate Himself ? Why so often such parsimony 
in the outpouring of the Divine gifts ? Why are there so 
many souls who seem as if they ought to abound in graces, 
and are yet so destitute of gifts from on high ? When we 
study the action of grace in souls, we are astonished, in passing 
from one to another, to notice the difference in the effects 
produced. With some, grace blossoms in an abundance of 
iii j S and gifts ; these souls advance visibly; they are 
filled with something divine, which is often manifested by 
e spiritual and beneficial influence which radiates from 
them. With others, on the contrary, it is quasi-sterility; 
e Sacraments, Mass, holy reading, the observance of the 
u e, all these means, which although they are authentic 
channels of Divine grace produce little effect in them. And 
ye , when one examines these souls, nothing is to be discover- 
w ! * , east at ,^ rst sight, which explains such a difference. 

• .°, ut ^ ard regularity leave them without 
union with God, and without any real progress ? 
Da „ 16 nf S , Wer question is easily to be found in certain 

have been ” PF® ce . dln g conference. Among the souls we 
have been considering, some are " rich in spirit " : Divites 

U J ° ac ’' *' l8> - a - Ibid ' - 3. Ibid. xiv, 31. - 4. MI, q. cx, a. I. 


HUMILITY 


2IX 


si the others are " poor in spirit ” : Pauper es spiritu l . 
For the' latter there is the Kingdom of God, with the abun- 
dance of all good things ; Esurientes implevit bonis; for the 
former, the destitution of their utter nothingness : Divites 
dimisit inanes 2 . 

We all have obstacles within us that hinder God’s action : 
sin, the roots of sin, perverse tendencies not fought against ; 
for " what fellowship hath light, with darkness 3 ? " These 
obstacles are overcome by souls who renounce everything, 
— created things, and themselves, — who increase their 
capacity for what is divine, by detachment from all that is 
not God. They look only to God for all they need ; they are 
humble in themselves, they rely only upon God ; God fills 
these pauperes spiritu with good things. As to the others, 
they bear within them a tendency particularly qualified to 
form an obstacle to God ; this tendency is pride. Pride is 
radically opposed to the Divine communications ; God cannot 
give Himself to these self-satisfied divites spiritu. This is a 
fact often to be met with. 

In studying this fact more deeply, we shall acknowledge 
how necessary humility is for the life of the soul ; we shall 
understand how right our holy Father was in wishing this 
virtue to be placed as the very basis of our monastic life ; 
then we will specify its nature and character. We will 
examine next the “ degrees of humility, ” such as St. Benedict 
defined them ; we shall be enabled to follow the manifesta- 
tions of the virtue, and finally to point out, the means con- 
ducive to its development in our souls. 

Let us ask Christ Jesus Whom we want to imitate more 
closely, after having left all things to follow Him, to teach 
us this humility. It is the virtue to which He willed espe- 
cially to draw the attention of our souls. One phrase of 
the Holy Gospel begins with these words : " Learn of Me... 
Discite a Me 4 . What is this thing that we are most specially 
to learn of Him ? Is it that He is God ? the sovereign 
Being, All-powerful, full of wisdom ? " What we must 

learn of Him ”, says St. Augustine, " is not that He has 
formed the world, created all things visible and invisible, 
that in this world which is His handiwork He has wrought 
miracles, and raised the dead to life ” : Discite « me non 
mundum fabricare, non cuncta visibilia el invisibilia creare, 
non in ipso mundo miracula facere, et mortuos suscitare . . 
Does He wish us " to learn ” from Him the most heroic 

J. Matth. v. 3. — 2. Luc. i, 53. — 3. II Cor. vi, I4» — 4* Matth. xi, 29. 

■ 5. S. Augustin. Scrmo 10 de Verbis Domini. P. L. Serttio 69, n. 2. 



212 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

virtues, that He was obedient unto death, that He delivered 
Himself up wholly to His Father’s will, that He was devoured 
with zeal for the interests of the Father’s glory and those 
of our salvation ? Without doubt He practised all these 
virtues with wonderful perfection : but what He wants us 
especially to learn of Him is that He is " meek and humble 
of heart, ” those virtues of self-effacement and silence, virtues 
unperceived by men, or even disdained by them 1 , but which 
He justly urges us to make our own : Discite a Me quia 
mitis sum et humilis corde. Let us beseech Him that, 
through His grace. He will make our hearts like unto His, 
for perfection lies in this constant imitation, through love, 
of our Divine Model : Hoc enim sentite in vobis quod et in 
Christo Jesu 2 . 

I. 


Holy Scripture, as you know has strange expressions to 
signify, in human language, God's attitude towards the 
proud. It says, " God resisteth the proud " : Deus superbis 
resislit 3 . If it is a terrible thing for a man to be forsaken 
by God, what is it when God begins to resist him ? 

We cannot think without terror of this divine resistance. 
God is the sole fount of our holiness, because He is the 
Author of every grace. Now what grace is to be hoped 
for from God, if God not only does not give Himself to us* 
but resists us, rejects us ? 

What is there then that is so evil, so contrary to God 
in pnde, for God so mightily to thrust it far from Him ? 

the reason of this antagonism is derived from the very 
S- a " re ° f /? 1 Y me Holiness. God is the Beginning and the 
p nd , the Alpha and Omega 1 of all things ; He is the First 
Cause of every creature and the Fountainhead of all perfection. 
A 1 life comes from Him, all good flows from Him ; but also 
every creature has to return to Him, all glory to be referred 
God has made everything for His glory : Universa 
propter semeltpsum operatus est Dominus 3 . In us, a like 

Whnm Ct tw Uld be .®8° t ? m . supreme disorder; in God, to 
.. f term of egotism can in nowise be applied, it is a 

God’s u ?° n ? is ver y nature. It is essential to 

.I • .! y bring back everything to His own glory ; 

subordina f G< f d W ° U ,u n0t be God - because . He would be 
subordinate to another end than Himself. Listen to the 


Aineri f (22 °‘ ° f : 

**n, 13. - 5 . Prov. xv' ,^ ’ 5 ‘ ~ 3 ‘ Petr - v > 3 and J*c. iv, 6. 


HUMILITY 


213 


Prophet Isaias. He shows us the Angels singing the holiness 
of God, because His glory fills heaven and earth : Sanctus, 
Sancltts, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth ; plena est omnis terra 
gloria ejus 1 . In the same way St. John at Patmos declares 
he saw the elect cast themselves down before the throne of 
God and heard them repeat tnis canticle : “ Thou art worthy, 
0 Lord our God, to receive glory, and honour, and power ; 
for all things have received being and life at Thy hands 2 . ” 
God Himself declares " I will not give my glory to another 3 . ” 
This is because in contemplating Himself He beholds that 
He merits infinite glory on account of the plenitude of His 
Being and the ocean of His perfections ; God cannot, without 
ceasing to be God, without ceasing to be Holiness, tolerate 
that His glory be attributed to another than Himself. He 
gives us many graces ; He gives us His beloved Son : Sic 
Deus dilexii mundum tit Filium suum unigenitum daret i : He 
gives Him to us entirely for ever, if we will have it so ; He 
gives us all good things in His Son, through His Son. Cum 
illo omnia nobis donavit 6 ; He gives us that supreme good 
which is eternal and unending bliss, He grants us to enter 
into the intimate fellowship of His Blessed Trinity ; but 
there is one thing which He neither will nor can communicate 
to anyone, — and this thing is His glory: Ego Dominus; 
gloriam meam alleri non dabo. 

Now what is it that the proud man does ? He attempts 
to rob God of this glory which God alone merits and of which 
He is so jealous, in order to appropriate it to himself. The 
proud man lifts himself up above others, he makes himself 
the centre ; he glories in his own person, in his perfection, 
his deeds ; he sees in himself alone the principle of all that 
he has and all that he is ;he considers that he' owes nothing 
to anyone, not even to God, He would deprive God, of that 
Divine attribute of being the First Principle and Last End. 
Doubtless, in theory, he may think that all comes from God, 
but, in practice, he acts and lives as if all came from himself. 

Such being the antagonism that pride sets up between 
man and God 8 , it is needful that God should resist the 
proud ; God cannot but repulse' him as an unjust aggressor . 
Superbis resistit. "The Lord is high, and looketh on the 
low : and the high He knoweth afar off ” : Excelsus Dominus 
ct humilia respicit, et alta a longe cognoscit 7 . 
on these words, an ancient author writes : " God beholdeth 
the proud from afar off, in order to oppress them more 


I. Isa. VI, 3 . — 2. Apoc. iv, n. — 3 ■ Isa. xlii , S. — *-J on ^D''’ l % b , rb t 
Rom. vni, 32 . — 6. Of. S. Thomas ii - ii , q. clxii a. 6. Utrum super 
i>l gravissimum peccalorum- — 7- Ps. cxxxvn, 6. 



ZI4 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

rigorously : " alia, id est, superba, de longe cognoscit ut depri- 
mat 1 Is there a more terrifying perspective for the soul 
than that ? 

Our Divine Saviour, so merciful, so compassionate, teaches 
us these same lessons again under the impressive parable 
of the Pharisee and the Publican. Look at the Pharisee : 
he is a man convinced of his own importance full of and 
sure of himself ; the " Ego ” of this man seeks to advertise 
itself by words and attitude. He stands in the careless 
posture of one conscious of his personal worth and perfection, 
one who owes nothing to anyone, and, inversely, esteems 
himself to have need of nothing. He complacently displays 
before God all that he has done ; it is true that he returns 
thanks to God ; but, remarks St. Bernard, this false homage 
is but a lie added to pride ; the Pharisee has “ a double 
heart 2 ” as the Psalmist says ; the contempt that he has for 
the Publican shows that he believes himself to be much more 
perfect than he, and thus it is to himself that in reality he 
reserves the glory that in appearance he gives to God 3 . He 
does not ask anything from God, because he does not consider 
he has need of anything : he suffices for himself ; he rather 
presents his conduct to God’s approbation. Can we not 
almost hear him saying: "My God, You must be very 
content with me, for I am truly irreproachable ; I am not 
like other men, not even like this publican. ” In fact this 
personage is practically persuaded that all his perfection 
comes from himself. We read moreover in the evangelical 
text that our J.ord spoke this parable to those Jews, " who 
trusted in themselves as just. ” 

Now look at the other actor in the scene, the Publican. 
He stands at a distance, scarcely daring to lift up his eyes, 
for he feels how miserable he is. Does he think he has 
any plea that can prevail with God ? He has none. He is 
aware only of his sins. " My God, I am only a guilty wretch, 
have pity on me. He confides only in the Divine mercy ; 
he moks for nothing, he hopes for nothing except from 
that ; all his confidence, all his' hope, is placed in God. 

Now, how does God act with these two men? Quite 
differently I say to you, " declares Christ Jesus, "'this 
man (the Publican) went down into his house justified 

of 177 de te i n f? ore > 3-. a- (Appendice to the works 

tribuert fed Dei rcer Jeff*) XI ’ 3 ' •, 3 ' @“ la gratias agendo probas ie tibi nihil 
fffniftrodifu fLfff /Renter agnoscere, cirte caderos dsptr- 

JJSLv et ,- e loc H tus s ‘>< aUero commodans lingitam 
tcmnendum brae te « nnn ^/ or , :am * Non enim judicares publicanum con - 

inf antic™ P.*L, cLxx X n,f“ ‘ honom ^ censeres. S. Bernard Sermo 13 


HUMILITY 


215 


rather than the other 1 . ” Was not the Publican, however, 
a sinner ? Assuredly. The Pharisee, on the other hand, 
was he not, at least outwardly, a faithful observer of the 
Law of Moses ? No less certainly he was. But he, full of 
himself, showed by his contempt of the publican that he 
was puffed up in his own heart by reason of these good 
works he had done. Therefore God repulses him : Dispersit 
super bos vienle cordis sui To the poor publican who 
humbles himself, He, on the contrary, gives an abundance 
of grace: Humilibns autem dat graliam 3 . 

And Christ Jesus, in ending the parable, Himself lays 
down the fundamental law which rules our relations with 
God; He brings forward the essential lesson we have to 
learn : “ Everyone that exalteth himself shall be humbled : 
and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted ’’ : Omnis 
qui sc exaltat humiliabitur et qui se humiliat exaliabitur 4 . 

You see to what a degree pride is opposed to the soul’s 
union with God ; there is not, says St. Thomas, any sin, or 
tendency, that bears more patently the character of an obstacle 
to Divine communications : Per superbiam homines maxima 
a Deo avertuntur 5 . And as God is the principle of all grace, 
pride is the most terrible of all dangers for the soul ; while 
there is no surer way of attaining holiness and of finding 
God than humility. It is pride that above ail prevents God 
from giving Himself ; if there were no longer any pride in 
souls, God would give Himself to them fully. Humility is 
indeed so fundamental a virtue that without it, says the 
Abbot of Clairvaux, all other virtues go to ruin : Virtutum 
siquidem bonum quoddam ac stabile fundamentum humilitas. 
Nempe si nutet ilia, virtutum aggregatio nonnisi ruma est . . 
This is because, by reason of our fallen nature, there are in 
us obstacles opposed to the expansion of the inner hte , if 
these obstacles are not removed, they end by stifling the 
virtues. Now, the greatest obstacle is pride, because it is a 
fundamental obstacle, radically opposed to Divine union 
itself, and consequently to the grace whereof God alone is the 
source and without which we can do nothing. Humility, 
again says St. Bernard, receives the other virtues, guards 
and perfects them : Humilitas viriutes alias accipit, servat 
acceptas... servatas consummat 7 . _ , _ v , 

The humble soul is ready to receive all the guts ol bo , 
first because it is empty of self, because it looks to Go or 

1. Luo. XVIII, 14. — 2. Ibid. 1, 51- — 3 Jac.iv, 6 ; I .J ctr :.y’ jjj" ''v^ca^x'i'v 
14. — 5- II-II, q. CLXII. a, 6 concl. — 6. De consideration^ lib. v, cap. xiv, 
32. ■ — 7. Tractatus de moribus et officio episcopi, cap. v, 



216 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

all that is necessary to its perfection, and because it feels 
itself to be poor and miserable. All that God has done for 
us since the Fall into which we have been drawn, is the 
effect of His mercy. The Angels who have no miseries 
hymn the sanctity of God; we hymn His mercy: Misericordias 
Domini in aeiernum cantabo 1 . God, beholding fallen man, 
encompassed with weaknesses, subject to temptation, at the 
mercy of his inclinations which change with the times and 
seasons, with health, surroundings, education, is touched 
by this misery, as if it were His own ; this Divine movement 
which inclines the Lord towards our misery in order to 
relieve it, is mercy : Quomodo miseretur Pater filiorum, miser- 
tus est Dominus timentibus se, quoniam ipse cognovit figmentum 
nostrum 2 . 

So profound is our misery that it may be compared to 
an abyss, which calls upon the abyss of the Divine mercy : 
Abyssus abyssum invocat 3 ; but it only calls upon it in 
so far as this misery is recognised, confessed ; and it is 
humility that wrings this cry from us : Domine, miserere 
meil Humility is the practical and continual avowal of 
our misery, and this avowal attracts the eyes of God. The 
rags and wounds of the poor plead for them ; they do not 
strive to hide them, on the contrary, they display them so 
as to touch the hearts of those who behold them. In the 
same way, we ought not to strive to dazzle God by our 
perfection, but rather to draw down His' mercy by the con- 
fession of our weakness. Each one of us has a sum of 
miseries sufficient to draw down the pity of our God. Are 
we not all like that poor wayfarer lying on the road to Jericho, 
stripped of his garments, covered with wounds ? By original 
sin, we have all been stripped of grace ; our personal sins 
have covered our soul with wounds, but Christ Jesus has 
been for us the good Samaritan; He came to heal us, to 
pour the balm of His Precious Blood upon our wounds, to 
take us into His arms and entrust us to the tenderness of 
His Church which is another Himself. 

“excellent prayer to show our Lord all our miseries, 
all the deformities that still disfigure our soul. " 0 my God, 
Wx? u » s ? u * Thou hast created and redeemed ; see 
disnlepcint S ^ e /° rrne d, how full it is of inclinations 
ef r p 3 ;„' nf 3 J?? 1 ? s ifkt. ^ ave pity ! ” This prayer goes 
in th g e h r^r, C i hriS r S H f art hke the P ra y er of th e poor leper 
Lord will heli us™ $ mece ‘P tor > miserere nostri *. And Our 

I. Ps. lxxxviii, 2. - 2. Ps.. cm 13.14. _ 3. Ps. XU, 8. - 4, Luc. xvn, 13. 


HUMILITY 217 ij 

When we acknowledge that of ourselves we are weak, jj| 

poor, miserable, infirm, we implicitly proclaim God’s power, ill 

wisdom, holiness, loving-kindness ; it is repdering homage ;; 

to the Divine plenitude, and this homage is so pleasing to 
God that He stoops towards the humble soul to fill it with 
. good things ; Esurientes implevit bonis. As St. Bernard j 

again says 1 : “ Our heart is a vessel destined to receive 
grace ; in order for it to contain grace in abundance it must 
be empty of self-love and vain glory a . When humility has 
there prepared a vast capacity to be filled, grace flows in, 
for there is close affinity between grace and humility semper 
solet esse graiiae div'inae familiar is virtus humilitas 3 . Nothing L 

then is more efficacious than this virtue for meriting grace; 1 

for retaining it in us, or recovering it if we have lost it 4 . j 

There exists yet another reason for God’s liberality towards 
humble souls. God sees that the humble soul will not, as 
the proud does, appropriate to itself the Divine gifts, but j 

will return all glory and praise to Heaven. And this is 
why, if we may be allowed so to speak, God has no fear in 
causing the abundance of His favours to flow into this soul ; 
it will not abuse them ; it will not use them otherwise than 
' ' as God intends. ■ 

The nearer we would draw to God, the more deeply we 1 

must anchor ourselves in humility. St. Augustine . shows j 

us this very clearly in a familiar comparison. “ The end, ” 
he says, " that we pursue is very great ; for it is God Whom 
we seek, to Whom we would attain, for in Him alone is to be 
found our eternal beatitude. Now we can only come to 
this lofty end through humility. Dost thou wish to raise 
thyself ? Begin by abasing thyself. Thou dost dream of j 

. building an edifice that will tower towards the skies ? Take 
care first of all to lay the foundation by humility ” : Magnus 
esse vis? a minimo incipe. Cogitas magnam fabricam con- \ 

struere celsitudinis? de fundamenio prius cogita humilitalis. 

And the higher the building is to be, adds the holy Doctor, 

the deeper must the foundations be dug : the more so in \ 

that the soil of our poor nature is singularly shifting and 

unstable : Ergo et fabrica ante celsitudinem humiliatur, et 

fasti gium post humiliationem erigitur. Now to what height 

dost thou aspire to raise this spiritual edifice ? As high 

as the vision of God : Quo perventurum est cactimen aedificii ? |j 

Cito dico : usque ad conspectum Dei. “See then, ” he ex- 

x. P. Pourrat : La Spirituality chrdlietme, n; Le moyen-dge,.p. 43* -/ I n 

Annuntiat. B. M. V. Sermo 111, 9, cf. Epistola cccxcm, 2-3.— 3- Super missus 
csl, homilia rv, 9, cf. In canlica, Sermo xxxiv. — 4. In caniica, Sermo hv, 9. 

Qi. Epistola ccclxxii, Sermo xi-vi de diver sis. — 



2lS CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

claims, " to what a sublime height this edifice must be raised 
what a thing it is to see God ; but it is not reached by self- 
elevation, but by humility ” : Videtis qua.ni excelsum est, quanta 
res conspiccre Deum, non elalione sad humililate attingitur 1 . 

II. 


Hence we easily understand why St. Benedict, who assigns 
us no other end than “ to find God, ” founds our spiritual 
life upon humility. He had himself reached too near God 
to be ignorant that humility alone draws down grace, and 
that without grace we can do nothing. All the asceticism of 
St. Benedict consists in maldng the soul humble, then in mak- 
ing it live in obedience (which is the practical expression 
of humility) : this will be for it the secret of intimate union 
with God 2 . " In the mind of the holy Patriarch, this chapter 
on humility views the spiritual life taken as a whole. He 
has marked out the stages of the soul’s ascent to God, from 
the renouncing of sin to the plenitude of charity. ’ Why 
does St. Benedict view this ascent from the angle of humility, 
granting to the development of this virtue the privilege of 
containing, so to speak, the increase of all the others ? He 
could have claimed, and not without reason, that the ladder 
that leads to God is made up of degrees of patience, or else 
of a succession of graces of prayer: discursive prayer to 
begin with, then simplified, then mystically uniting the soul 
to God ; or better still, he could have said that this ladder 
was a succession of degrees of charity. If St. Benedict 
preferred a conception of another kind, it is because, by 
tendency of character and the attraction of grace, he’was 
predisposed to understand the ascension of the soul as 
characterised by a deeper and deeper submission of man 
before God. This conception is the reflection of an essentially 
religious and contemplative soul... 3 ” 

dev ° t S S a whole cha P ter to this fundamental 
virtue, but, as we shall see further on, he has a very sure and 
at the same time a very wide concept of humility ; he does 

to the mnrff f mp ! y as a very s Pe«al virtue apart, linked 

thewh^le tT f f rt a C ° f , tem P e , rance *. but as a virtue expressing 
attitude the soul ought to have in face of God) 
an attitude wherein are fused the different sentiments that 




HUMILITY 


2I9 


should animate us as creatures and as adopted children ; 
an attitude on which all our spiritual life is to be based. 
This proposition will be made clearer by what follows. 

St. Benedict begins his chapter by recalling the law laid 
down by Christ Himself at the end of the parable of the 
Pharisee and the Publican. " Everyone that exalteth him- 
self, shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself, shall 
be exalted. ” “ The intimate sense of the Divine hold upon 

human life causes a man to humble and submit himself, 
while simultaneously he is exalted in God by this very 
submission. The deep meaning of St. Benedict’s idea 
is the assertion of the evangelical truth that the more A 


1 

l 


man progresses in true humility, the more he becomes 
absorbed in God and rises towards the heights of union 


with Him 1 . 


The theory of humility is, with St. Benedict, exactly cor- 
relative with his conception of grace. The progress of the 
soul in God is the progress of God in the soul. The work, 
which by means of grace, belongs properly speaking, to the 
soul, is to open the way to God's action, to open itself to 
God. To every degree of ascension towards God, corresponds 
a degree of “ the opening of self to God. ” How do we 
open ourselves to God ? By more and more abolishing pride 
within us ; by more and more deepening humility. And 
this is how, definitively, the ladder, in the negative sense, 
of humility can serve as the ladder, in the positive sense, 
of perfection and charity. Upon the ladder of humility can 
be marked a gradation which, doubtless admits of some con- 
vention and ingenuity, but which however well indicates 
all positive degrees in the supernatural life. 

Borrowing the expressive image of the Psalmist, St. Be- 
nedict compares the proud man repulsed by God to an infant 
weaned too soon from its mother - : severed from the source 
of life the infant is doomed to perish. This is the great danger 
that the soul risks : to be separated from God, the sole 
fount of every grace. If then, continues our Holy Father, 
" we wish to attain to the summit of supreme humility, 
and speedily reach that heavenly exaltation to which we 
ascend by the humility of this present life, we must by 
the ever ascending degrees of our actions, erect that ladder 
which appeared to Jacob while he slept and by which he 
saw the Angels descending and ascending 3 . ' The holy 


i.D. I. Ryelandt, 1. c. — 2. Ps. cxxx, 2. — 3. Rule, ch. Vll. This idea 
seems' to have been borrowed from St. Jerome : but this holy Doctor under- 
stands it of interior ascension bv the exercise of all the virtues 
per quam divers is virtutum gradibus ad superna conscendtiur (.hpist., 903 ,) 




220 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

Lawgiver next compares the two sides of the ladder to the 
body and the soul, for the body is to share in the inward 
virtue, and divine grace has placed between these two sides 
the divers degrees which we must climb. 


Before studying these degrees with St. Benedict, let us 
first say what humility is. St. Benedict does not define it ; 
he rather points out its different manifestations. We will 
therefore borrow the divers elements of the definition of 
humility from St. Thomas, who, moreover, in his Summa ' 
theologica comments on this chapter of St. Benedict and 
justifies the degrees of humility indicated by him 1 .' God 
sometimes gives to a soul, all at once, a higher degree of 
humility, as He gives to another the gift of prayer; but in 
the ordinary way, He requires our co-operation ; and since 
we only esteem and seek what we know, let us try to under- 
stand clearly what this virtue is. 

Humility can be thus defined : a moral virtue that inclines 
us, from reverence towards God, to abase ourselves and 
keep ourselves in the place that we see is due to us. 

_ It is a virtue, that is to say an habitual disposition. The 
virtue of humility is not constituted by a particular act ; 
one can perform the acts without possessing the virtue ; 


St. B enedi ct restricts the idea to the practice of humility. Let us add then 
that in the sixth century, St. John Climacus wrote his celebrated Scala 
parodist, the ladder that leads to Heaven," and that comprises thirty 
degrees, to recall the thirty years of Christ's hidden life. 

q ' CLXI ’ h T- °. LXI1 - a. 4, ad 4. However St. Thomas 

i, °f d . er m beginning by the last degree. In the body of 

the takes Y P an !j w J“ s . teaching on humility beginning with 

^ ‘"wards God. It is known that St Thomas was a 

ohhe^H te1e?, bl .‘u a VJ IoQ - e Cassmo whorc be stayed nine years ; he was 
Frederick abbey ln consequence of the political troubles raised by 

from ; “communicated by Gregory IX, drove out the monks 

studied h the W Of YL iPi" 1 ?,®. 11 . 15 s fi! 0 “ rn , at Cassino, the young Thomas 
doctor'- J toe boly Patriarch s Rule. " The writings of the future 

Mandonnet”" r? p says ., tbe most recent of the historians of St- Thomas, Ptire 
leSlari?em^,'„me ^7 •• b ^. testimony to his familiarity with St. Benedict's 
Braedktfn? Ohl?te h , lasam f. historian ends his study upon "St. Thomas, 

“ r 4- • TOth these lines which I may bo allowed to quote : 

somoS remLs^ReW 5t d aV 1 Ie V be sh elter of his youthful years with 
must hwe ?^MaredTn S v,im e F V elleI0US jOnt, the weir spring of his life 

fSSsS si 

admirable eauilibrium t$ S iaJ a ? ar t0 0ne an °tbcr, had already confirmed the 
his life as SrS d„ t T peram . ent , a Y d faculties. The isolation of 
awakened if not’ matured 6 ?? veIo P m ent of he great Cassinian nature had 


HUMILITY 


it21 

the virtue consists of an habitual disposition, promptly and 
easily manifested. It is like a furnace whence acts of 
humility arise as do sparks under a breath that stirs the 
; flame. 

Being a moral virtue, humility has assuredly all its premis- 
ses in the understanding, in the judgment. But we think 
that certain authors are wrong in placing it formally in the 
understanding ; with St. Thomas we say that it dwells essen- 
tially in the will : In IPSO appetitu const slit hum: litas essen- 
tialiter 1 ; existit circa appelitum magis qnam circa aestimatio- 
nem 2 . So, on the other hand, pride predisposes and coniuins 
ill-regulated self-esteem, but it consists more forms’’;- i n 
self-complacency (the attitude of the heart) which follows 
the judgment. In humility, it is the goodwill, which aided 
by grace, humbles itself, out of reverence towards God, and 
j urges the intellect and the whole man to remain in the place 
which he knows to be due to him 3 . 

Now, what is this place ? Let us consider the thing, not 
from the point of view of the world, which only esteems 
| what is brilliant and assumes false appearances, but from 
the point of view of faith, from the point of view of God, 
Who is very Truth- and is not deceived. 

In the natural order, what have I of myself ? Without 
any exaggeration, it must be replied : Nothing, neither life, 
nor health, nor physical strength, nor talents : " Thy hands 
have fashioned me... wholly.” Manus tuae, Domlne,fecerunt 
me totum in circuitu 4 . And not only have I been formed 
by God, but my being relies wholly upon Him : In Him, 
“ we live, and move, and are In ipso vivimus, movemur et 
sumus 5 . The active preservation of things is, on God’s part, 
a continual creation. If God withdrew His hand, I should 
instantly find myself without energy, without will, without 
reason, without life : Omnis caro faenum; exsiccatum est 
faenutn, et cecidit flos a . I possess, it is true, the substance 
of my soul and body, their faculties and powers ; but that 
is because I have received them from God. “ For who 
distinguished thee ? ” says St. Paul. “ Or what hast thou 
that thou hast not received ? And if thou hast received, 
why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it 7 ? 

And in the supernatural order ? It is true that by grace 

i. II-II, q. CLXI, a. 2,'C. — 2. Ibid. — 3. Tho holy Doctor adds, of course, 
J (Ibid.) that humility is based, as upon its, directing norm, upon knowledge. 

! whereby we do not esteem ourselves above what we are (Ibid. a. 2 and o :) 

an application to a particular case of this exchange of causality known to all 
psychologists and moralists, which is made between the reason and the will. 
— 4 * Job. x, 8. — 5. Act. xvii, 28. — 6. Isa. xl, 7. — 7 * I Cor. iv, 7. 



222 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

we are the children of God, the brethren of Jesus, called by 
God to be like unto Himself : Ego dixi: dii estis 1 . That is 
a wonderful condition, a sublime end, but God has called us 
to it gratuitously : Non ex operibus justitiae quae fecimus nos, 
sed secundum suam misericordiam salvos nos fecit 2 . And after 
God’s mercy has endowed us with this Divine gift, we cannot 
use it without God ; it is of faith, de fide, that we cannot 
have, by ourselves, in the order of grace, one good thought, 
meritorious for heaven. Our Lord has said speaking gene- 
rally : Sine me nihil fiotestis facere 3 ; " Without My grace 
you can do nothing. ” And St. Paul develops the same truth: 
“ Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, 
as of ourselves : but our sufficiency is from God. ” Non 
quod sufficientes simus cogitare aliquid a nobis quasi ex nobis, 
sed sufficientia nostra ex Deo esl i . Furthermore, he tells us 
that no man can supernaturally invoke the name of Jesus, 
except by the grace of the Holy Spirit 5 . As we see,' all 
good comes from God ; and if it is true that the merits of 
our deeds are our own, they are so because God allows us 
to merit °. 

Very logically then our Holy Father tells us that if " we 
see any good in ourselves we ought to attribute it to God and 
not to ourselves ” : Bonum aliquid in se cum viderit Deo ap- 
plied, non sibi; and, he at once adds, we ought, on the con- 
trary to impute to ourselves all the evil that we do, and of 
which we know we are the cause : Malum vero semper a se 
factum sciat et sibi rcpulet 7 . Indeed what is in nowise from 
God, and is exclusively our own, is sin. If only once in 
our lifetime we have offended God mortally, we then deserved 
in all justice, to become an object of horror and hatred to 
this God Who is very Majesty and Goodness. And if we 
were not there and then struck down by death and doomed 
to everlasting punishment, if God, with His forgiveness, vouch- 
safed^ to restore to us His grace and friendship, it is again 
to His goodness that we owe it : Misericordia Domini quia 
non sumus consumpti 8 . 

Such is the condition that the infallible light of faith shows 
us as being our own, when we consider all things from the 
point of dew of Divine truth. Humility keeps us in an 
attitude conformable with this condition; the will, aided 


*' Ps j i XXXI * e - 2. Tit. ill, 5-6. — 3. Joan, xv, 5. — 4. II Cor. m, 5) 

rlnrirtur I? !j ~ A ■ 't‘ ch ristianus homo in se ipso vel confidat vet 

IctiuZ mr JZ cu ’ u jj tanla omnes homilies bonilas ut corum 

ch IV 8 Tre ‘ PS "‘ S d °' m - Counci1 ' Trid - Sess. vi, c. 16. — 7. Rule, 


1 


HUMILITY 


223 


by grace, prompts us to keep in the,.place which is properly 
“ our own 


St. Thomas says that the principal reason and motive of 
this self-abasement is : “ reverence towards God ” : Ratio 
praecipna humilitatis sumitur ex rcvcrentla divina ex qua con- 
iingit ut homo non pins sibi attribuat quam sibi comfetal 
secundum gradum quern est a Deo sortilns 1 . And the great 
Doctor recalls that St. Augustine links humility to the gift 
of fear as he links it to the virtue of religion : Et propter hoc 
Augustinus humilitatem attribuit dono timoris quo homo Deuhi 
reverelur. We here touch on the deepest point, the very 
root of the virtue. 

When, in prayer, we contemplate the perfections and works 
of God, when a ray of Divine light reaches us, what is the 
first movement of the soul touched by grace ? It is one 
of self-abasement ; the soul is lost in adoration. This atti- 
tude of adoration is the only “ true ” one that the creature, 
as such, can have before God. What is adoration ? It is 
the avowal of our inferiority before the Divine perfections ; 
it is the acknowledgment of our absolute dependence in face 
of Him Who, alone, is of Himself, the plenitude of Being ; 
it is the homage of our subjection in face of . the infinite 
Sovereignty. When a creature does not remain in this 
attitude, it is not in the truth. In Heaven, the Blessed 
are locked in God’s embrace, an embrace surpassing all that 
the most ardent love can imagine ; they are possessed by 
God, they possess Him in the essence of their soul ; God is 
all in them ; and yet they do not cease to be lost in deep 
reverence, the expression of their adoration : Timor Domini 
sanctus permanens in saeculum saeculi. Should not the 
annihilation of self be likewise our law here below ? When 
faith, which is the prelude to the Beatific Vision, makes us 
touch something of God’s unfathomable jrerfections, we at 
once cast ourselves down in adoration. The soul under- 
stands, under a strong inner light, what a close contact there 
may be between itself and God ; it beholds the infinite con- 
trast of the two terms : littleness and lowliness contrasted 
with greatness and majesty; greatness and majesty contrasted 
with littleness and lowliness. The soul may moreover 

I. II-II, q. CI.XI, a. 2, ad 3. Cf. a. 1, ad 5 ; Humilitas praecipue respicit 
uibjectioncm hominis adUcum. — Humilitas proprie respicit rnicrentiam qua 
homo Deo subjicilur. 


Christ, the Ideae of the monk 



£24 


concentrate its attention the more upon the one or other 
of these two terms of the relation. Is it upon the term : 

" God” ? It tends to adore Him. Is it the term of “self ” ? 
The soid tends' to humble itself. It is at the precise instant 
of our self-annihilation in presence of the Divine Majesty 
that humility is bom in the soul. As soon as reverence 
towards God fills the soul, it is like the source whence 
humility springs up : Ilumilitas causalur ex revercntia 
divina 1 . If this cause is lacking, humility cannot exist. 
This is a point which cannot be too much insisted upon. We 
see how eminently humility is a “ religious ” virtue, per- 
meated, as has been very well said 2 , with religion, and 
therefore essentially proper to our state. 

We understand too, how important it is, in order to streng- 
then humility, to give ourselves up to the contemplation of 
the Divine perfections. God is Almighty : “ He spoke and 
all things were made. " With a word. He drew out of nothing 
a wonderful creation ; and this creation which is so beautiful, ' 
these legions of angels, these nations of human beings, so great 
and numerous, are in regard to Himself, like’ an atom, as if they 
existed not : Omnes genles quasi non sint, sic sunt coram eo 3 . 
He is eternal ; all creatures pass away or pay their tribute 
to the order of succession, while He remains immutable in 
the full and sovereign possession of His perfections. So 
perfect is He that He has no need of anyone. His infinite 
wisdom attains all His designs with strength and sweetness ; 
His adorable justice is equity itself ; His goodness and 
power are unequalled ; He has but to open His hand to fill 
every living creature with blessings 1 . 

And what accents would have to be found to celebrate 
the Divine works in the supernatural order ? We have 
many times spoken of the magnificence of the Divine Plan. 
God wills to make us His children by making us partakers 
of the very filiation of His Son Jesus 5 , and thus cause us to 
draw eternal beatitude at the very fountainhead of the 
Divinity. The Masterpiece of the eternal thoughts which is 
Christ, the wonderful mysteries of the Incarnation, the 


J, 1 ' P <3- r°i-xi, a. 4 ad i. — 2.D. O. Lottin, in L’ Attic du Culte, la vertu 
. ■ . (Louvain, 1920, p. 40 sq.) In tins little opuscule of condensed 

? htened theologian, has shown "how after 
c, humility to temperance and obedience to the observance, 

relieion Thl, b ffi°u Sht - j V1 j enc 5 °? ‘ be realit y- relate these virtues to 
ascftirii ls J n . dce< j Undeniable. It was perceived by the ancient 

Rdilfn- w th n^' ^ he I l ule J of ? u Benedlct . for example, ignores the word 
order to hoVr? • , em ( b H c . d T th the spirit of religion. It is sufficient, in 
SDiritof sMo„rf, ‘a C ,? d 2 read the chapters 5-7 upon obedience, the 

16 ”1 5. cf" Eph * T * 1 ( ' 49 ’ n,) - ~ 3 ‘ Isa> xp « *7- - 4. Ps. xcliv, 


IIUMILITV 


225 

Passion, the Resurrection and the triumph of Jesus, the 
institution of the Church and the Sacraments, grace, the 
virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, all this marvellous 
supernatural order has come forth from this movement of 
the Heart of God so as to make us His children : Ut adop- 
tionem filiorum reciper emus 1 . It is an admirable order, a 
work of power, of wisdom and love of which the spectacle 
ravished St. Paul. 

When our souls contemplate these divine perfections and 
works, not according to a philosophy that would make of 
it an abstract, cold and dry study, but in prayer, and, when 
God touches us with His light, all terrestrial superiorities 
are effaced, all created perfections appear as nothingness, 


all human greatness fades away like smoke. Before this 
omniscient, this sovereign wisdom, this absolute power, this 
august sanctity, this justice into v-hich not the least move- 
ment ot passion enters ; before this boundless goodness, this 
inexhaustible tenderness and mercy, the soul cries out : 

“ Who is like to Thee, O my God ? “ Quis sicut Domintts 
Deus nosier, qui in altis habitat ?* And how profound are 
Thy thoughts I An intense reverence seizes us to the very 
depths of our souls, and we are lost in our nothingness : 
what are we, what are the celestial spirits, what are the human 
multitudes, in face of this wisdom, this power, this eternity, 
tins holiness ? Omnes genles quasi non sunt sic sunt coram eo. 

But let us be careful to remark, for this again is very 
important, that this sense of reverence in the soul while 
yet being very intense and real, is not distinct from those of 
confidence and love®. Humility does not contradict any 
of the aspects of the truth. God is to be contemplated in 
all His perfections and in all His works ; He is at once Lord 
and Father ; we are at once creatures and adopted children , 
and it is from this total contemplation in the Almighty 
Power of a sovereign Lord and the Supreme Goodness of a 
Father full of tenderness, that reverence towards God, the 
root Of humility, ought to arise. 


St. Benedict’s conception of humility far surpasses in 
amplitude those that have become classic with morahshs , 
but it in nowise contradicts them. Humility remains o 
him, as for all, a virtue which restrains the mordmate ten- 
dencies of self-exaltation in the creature ; but with im, 
as appears above in the Prologue of the Rule, — on accoun 
of the " relationshq ” that he gives it with the virtue of 
1. Galat. ,v, 5. - 2. Ps. cxu, 5- - 3 . «. Collection " Pax , La Mire 
Jeanne Deleloc. 


226 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

religion, it is not complete unless blended with the love 
and confidence that should animate the heart of a child. 
Reverence towards God ought to make a soul lost in self- 
abasement, and at the same time, through this very self- 
abasement, yielded up to the loving accomplishment of the 
Heavenly Father's desires. The virtue of humility is rather, 
i ! ■ |i with our Holy Father, the habitual attitude of soul which 

ji rules our whole relation with God in the truth of our twofold 

: ; quality of sinful creatures and adopted children 1 . 

; If forgetful of our nothingness we come before God, full 

i ■ | of confidence, but with little reverence ; or, if, on the con- 

trary, we are penetrated with fear, but have only a slight 
confidence, our relations with God are not what they ought 
to be. The self-abasement of the creature should not be 
to the detriment of the confidence of the child ; the quality 
of child ought not to cause forgetfulness of the condition 
! of creature and sinner. Humility thus understood envelops 

I our whole being, and we understand why St. Benedict has 

] made one of the most characteristic notes of the spiritual 

life to consist in this very precise and comprehensive attitude 
j of soul. We shall not have grasped the holy Patriarch’s 

j 1 '. | j teaching unless we have understood that the root of humility 

;ji| is an intense reverence of the soul before God; that this 

,1 reverence itself is born of the contemplation of what God 

l \ ii is and does for us in His two-fold character of Lord and 

i j Father ; and that this two-fold reverence, once anchored in 

' the soul, keeps it in the self-abasement befitting it as a 

i ! creature stained by sin, but at the same time surrenders it 

jj entirely, in confident and grateful abandonment, to the will 

;ji of the Heavenly Father. 

| ijj In consequence, this reverence towards God extends to 

: ij all that touches, represents or announces God : to Christ’s 

: ii| Humanity, then to all the members of His Mystical Body. 

1 “ We ought, ” St. Thomas well says, “not only to revere 

. God in Himself ; but also to revere, although in a different 

1 ; manner, what is of God in every man. Therefore,.” he 

concludes, " we ought, out of humility, to submit ourselves 
to all our fellow-creatures for God’s sake. ” Non debemus 
| j jj solum Deum revenri in seipso sed eiiain id quod cst e-jus, 

Ij ji debemus revereri in quoli bet ; non tamen eo modo reverentiae 

Si 1 U0 Taieremur Deum. Et idco per humilitatem debemus nos 

if }• " The twelve degrees of humility (set forth by St. Benedict) form an ■ 

ij j.{ astonishingly penetrating and harmonious whole, showing the blending of 

jj : 1 j ,e ?F , au a confidence, of obedience and energy, of recollection and charity 

:|i ij. which ought to compose the attitude of the monk who advances in spiritual 

j: if life..,' D. Ryelandt, 1. c. 


HUMILITY 


227 


subjicere omnibus proximis propter Deum 1 . When we have 
this spirit of reverence towards God, it bears upon all “ that 
is of God ’’ in creatures. Being unable completely to anni- 
hilate itself before God, the soul for God’s sake, and out of 
regard for God, places itself at the feet of creatures. This 
reverence extends first of all to Christ’s Sacred Humanity ; 
united personally to the Word, this Humanity merits the 
1 worship and adoration that we render to God Himself. 
When we see our Lord upon the Cross, covered with blood, 
become the scorn of the multitude, Dejectum el novissimum 
virorum 2 , we fall upon our knees, we adore Him, because 
He is God. 

All proportion guarded, we act in an analogous manner 
with all the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, because 
God, through Christ’s Humanity, is united to the whole 
human race. The humble monk, filled with reverence to- 


wards God, sees in every man with whom he comes in 
contact an apparition of God ; and he devotes himself to 
serving this .man because, in one way or another, the monk 
sees God in him. Such is truly the thought of our Holy 
Father when he ordains " to incline the head or even prostrate 
upon the ground before all guests at their arrival or at the 
moment of their departure, in order to adore in them Christ 
Who is received in their persons ” : Omnibus venientibus^ 
vel discedentibus hospitibus, inclinato capite vel proslrato omni 
corpore in terra, Chrislus in eis ADORETUR qui et suscipUtir 3 . 
This is the attitude of humility. We prostrate before an- 
other, we serve him in all subjection, because we revere in 
him such or such a divine attribute ; for example,the attribute 
of power in those holding authority. “ It is in the reverence 
with which I encompass the plenitude of God’s rights that 
I derive the ultimate motive of my obedience to all created 
authority *. " 

It is that humility of which St. Benedict treats with so 
much predilection that gives to Monastic spirituality its 
particular character of greatness, and invests it with a 
special splendour. The Holy Spirit harmonises the two 
sentiments, the one of fear, the other of piety ; and their 
accord causes the soul, selfless as it is before God and 
the neighbour, to be yet assured of the divine grace that 


1 . II-II, q. CLXI, a. 3 ad 1 . St. Thomas says again with much justice : 
Humililas pro brie resbicit reverentiam qua homo subjtctlur, et taeo qmhoel homo 
secundum id quod stium est, debet se cuilibet proximo submere quantum aa t 
quod est Dei in ipso. (a. 3, in corpore.) Cf. also a. 1. ad 5 * 2 * isa. liii, 

3* — 3> Rule, ch. liii. — 4 . D. Lottin, l. c. 


1 ? 

i! r 




228 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

comes to it through Christ, in Whom it finds everything 
which of itself it lacks. This invincible assurance . fills it 
with the very power of God, and thus renders its life 
altogether fruitful. Knowing that without Christ it can do 
’ nothing, Sine me nihil poteslis facere \ it knows with the same 
certainty that it can do all things, as soon as it leans upon 
Him : Omnia possum in eo qui me conjortat 2 . Humility is the 
secret of its strength and vitality. 

IV. 


It now remains for us to study the different degrees of 
this virtue, according to the teaching of the great Patriarch ; 
and having done this, we will point out its beneficent 
effects, and the means of strengthening it within us. 

The general classification of the degrees of humility, laid 
down by St. Benedict, has received the approbation of the- 
Angelic Doctor 3 . Our Holy Father speaks first of all of 
interior virtue, and as the first degree he places the fear of 
God, reverence towards God. He rightly does so. St. Tho- 
mas shows us that tne holy Lawgiver considered humility, 
set forth the teaching concerning it, and established its 
degrees, according to the very nature of the thing, " secun- 
dum ipsam naluram rd i . " Exterior acts of humility, ” says 
the prince of theologians, " should proceed from the interior 
disposition ” : Ex interior, autern dispositione Jmmilitatis 
procedunt quaedam exteriora signa 5 . But, he adds, the 
principle and root of interior humility itself is reverence 
towards God : Principinm el radix humilitatis est reverentia 
quam quis habel ad Deum 6 . The fear of God is said to 
constitute the first of all the degrees : because without it 
humility cannot be born or maintained. Hence as from a 
living stem spring forth all the other degrees of humility, 
the virtue which lies within being naturally manifested 
outwardly. 

The holy Patriarch therefore places reverence towards God 
as the point of. departure : “ The first degree of humility 
consists in having the fear of God ever before our eyes, 
without ever forgetting it " : Si iimotem Dei sibi ante oculos 
semper ponetts, oblivionem fugiat 7 . But there is a gradation 
m the fear of God. Of what fear is there question here ? 
It cannot be question of servile fear, of the fear of chastise- 


6 adV“L X <’ 5 a"T*- P ) jiU T p 1 -.' v ' ' 3 . — 3. II-II, q. clxi. a. 6 . — 4. Ibid. a. 
ci'tcd in thl3 5 ron’fr.rl.nr» 6 ' ~a Z' ? ule >, d*- VI1 - Tno texts of the Rule 
we refe X’xSdttoU onceTorlh! 0 hUm ' I,ty Mn « ^ fr0m “apter VII, 


HUMILITY 


229 

ment, proper to the slave, which excludes love and paralyses 
confidence ; it concerns first of all imperfect fear with which 
love is blended, secondly, reverential fear. Our Lord Himself 
tells us : “ Fear ye Him, Who after He hath killed, hath 
i power to cast into hell, ’’ in gehennam. This fear makes us 

i watch unceasingly to avoid sin, in order not to displease 

God Who punishes evil : Custodiens se omnihora a peccatis 'et 
vitiis. This fear is good. Scripture places this prayer upon 
our lips ; “ Pierce Thou my flesh with Thy fear ” : Confige 
timore tuo carnes mens K Our Lord in person enjoins this fear 
even on those whom He vouchsafes to call His friends. 

Undoubtedly, as the soul progresses in the spiritual life, 
the aforesaid fear gives place, little by little, to love, as the 
habitual mainspring of action. It never ought, however, to 
disappear altogether ; it is a weapon that we should constant- 
i ly hold in reserve, in our spiritual arsenal, for hours of combat 
when love threatens to be overcome by passion. The Council 
of Trent insists forcibly upon the uncertainty in which we 
are left touching our final perseverance ; our life is a continual 
trial of faith, and we ought never to part with, or fail to 
| keep within our reach, the weapon of the fear of God. 

This imperfect fear ought however to culminate habitually 
in the reverential fear whereof the ultimate term is adoration 
full of love. It is of this fear that is said : Timor Donum 
j sanctus, permanens in saeculum saeculi 2 . The fear of the 

Lord is holy, enduring forever and ever.” It is the reverence 

that seizes every creature before the infinite plenitude of 
the Divine perfections, even when this creature has become 
a child of God, nay, even when admitted to the kingdom of 
Heaven ; a reverence which makes the purest angels veil their 
| faces before the dazzling effulgence, of the Divine Majesty . 
Adoranl dominationes, iremunt polestates 3 , a reverence which 
filled the very Humanity of Christ : Et replebit eum spintus 
timoris Domini i . . .. 

What does the great Patriarch say to us when he invites 
us in the Prologue to place ourselves in his school . 1 “ a 

he wishes to teach us, as his sons, the fear of God : 

I plU... timorem Domini docebo vos 5 . This God is a .Fa er 
full of goodness, to Whose admonitions we ought to listen 
with the ears of the heart, that is to say with a lively sense 
of love, for this Father prepares for us an: inheritance o 
I immortal glory and eternal beatitude. St. Benedict w 

have us take care not to weary with our faults the goo ne s 

i. Ps. cxviu, 120. — 2. Ps. xvm, io. — 3. Preface of the Mass. 4. Isa 
xi> 3 . — 5. Ps. xxxiii, 12. — 6. Prologue of the Rule, 




230 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

of this Heavenly Father Who awaits us. Quia pins esl, and, 
in His love, destines those who fear Him, to an ineffable 
participation in His own life : Et vita aelerna quae timentibus 
Deum praeparata est. This fear, this reverence towards 
God, the Father of infinite majesty, patrem immensat 
majcstatis l , ought to be habitual and “ constant, ’’ for it 
concerns the virtue, that is to say, an habitual disposition, 
and not an isolated act : Animo sno semper evolvat. 

Each degree of interior virtue is a step towards the 
profound adoration of God, the final term of our reverence. 
In fact, if we have this reverence towards God, we shall 
pass on, as it were naturally, to the submission of our own 
will to that of God ; this is the second degree. True fear of 
God obliges a man to be solicitous as to what God commands 
him ; it is a want of respect towards God not to think of 
what He enjoins on us. God’s Will is God Himself : if we 
have the fear of God, we shall give ourselves up, from 
reverence towards Him, to the doing of all that He commands 
us : Beatus vir qui timet Dominum, in mandatis ejus volet 
nimis 2 . We shall have such reverence for God that we 
shall always prefer His will to our own ; we shall immolate 
to Him this self-will which, in many souls, is an inner idol 
to which they unceasingly offer incense. The humble soul, 
knowing the sovereignty of God’s rights which flow from the 
the plenitude of His Being and the infinity of His perfections, 
knowing too its own nothingness and dependence, does not 
wish to find in itself the motive power of its life and activity ; 
it seeks this motive power in the will of God ; it sacrifices 
its self-will to that of God ; it accepts the rulings of Providence 
towards it, without the least inward resistance, because God 
alone merits all adoration and all submission, by reason of 
His holiness and omnipotence : Humilitas proprie respicit 
re-verentiam qua homo deo subjicitur 3 ... Per hoc quod 
Deum reveremur ct honoramus, mens nostra ei subjicitur i . 

V. 

These two first degrees belong, in substance, as much to 
the simple Christian as to the monk. But St. Benedict who 
wishes the monk to aim at the perfection of Christianity, 
has taken care to recall these degrees emphatically to his 
sons. J 


J. Hymn Te Deum. — 2. Ps. 
a. 4, in c. 


cxi, 1. — 3. p St cxi. 


1. — 4. 11-11, q. clxi, 


HUMILITY 231 

The third degree is already liigher and is properly speaking 
monastic. “ The disciple is to submit himself in all obedience 
to his Superior”: Omni obedientia se subdat majorl. The 
soul has such reverence towards God and His will, that it 
admits that God intimates His " good pleasure ’’ through the 
voice of a man : Pro Dei amore; this is the motive pointed 
out by St. Benedict. To submit to God (2nd degree) is a 
• relatively easy thing ; but to obey a man in all things, and 
all one’s life, is mucn more difficult to nature. It needs a 
greater spirit of faith and a deeper reverence towards God 
to see Him in a man wno holds His place. God wills that, 
after having adored Him in Himself, we should render to 
Him the homage of our submission in the person of a man 
whom He has chosen to direct us. This man, however 
imperfect he may be in himself, represents God for the 
believing soul, because owing to his authority he participates 
in the divine attribute which is power ; and the soul surren- 
ders itself to him, for the sake of this communication that 
God makes of His sovereignty to the Superior. According 
to the expression of Blessed Angela of Foligno, the soul 
reads God’s name on the man 1 who represents Him. There- 
fore the soul says to God : Thou art so great, and I am 
so small a thing before Thee, that I wish out of love and 
reverence for Thee to obey, all my life, a man weak like 
myself, but who represents Thee : Humilitas secundum quod 
est specialis virtus praecipue respicit subjectionem hominis ad 
Deum. Propter quem etiam aliis humiliando se sub- 
JICIT 3 . 

And see how the self-abasement and adoration of the soul 
before God are increased at the 4 th degree. The humble 
monk not only accepts the divine economy that wills he 
should be led by one of his fellow creatures, weak and imper- 
fect ; but he inviolably preserves this submission despite the 
difficulties he experiences in so doing, despite the injuries, 
contempt or affronts he may have to suffer in the exercise 
of his obedience, and this without a murmur arising from 
his heart \Tacita conscientia. Humility here blossoms out 
into heroic patience. What a contrast with pride ! The 
proud man is assured of his perfection and so full of the idea 
of his importance that he at once bursts out with excuses. 

Now on the day we made profession of our Rule, we 
promised to tend to this humility. 

If so admirable a patience appears very difficult for us to 

1. The Book 0/ Visions, ch. 63. — 2. II'I I, q- clxi, a. 1, ad 5. 




232 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

possess, let us turn our gaze upon our Divine Model during 
His Passion. He is God, the All-Powerful, and His Soul is 
rich in all perfection. And behold, they spit in His Face ; 
He does not turn away : Faciem meam non averti ab incrc- 
pantibus ct conspuenlibus in M e 1 . He is silent before Herod 
who treats Him as a fool: At ipse nihil illi respondebat 3 ; 
He submits Himself to Pilate who condemns Him to an 
infamous death, He submits Himself because Pilate, being the 
legitimate governor of Judea, represented. Pagan though he 
was, the authority that has its source in God : Non haberes 
potestatcm adversum me ullam nisi tibi datum esset desuper 3 . 
Why does Christ Jesus submit without complaint to all 
these outrages ? From reverence and love for His Father 
Who has fixed the circumstances of His Passion : Sicut man- 
datum dedit milii Paler*. 

It is proportionately the same for the humble monk. Why 
does he accept all humiliation ? Always for the sake of 
the reverence he has for God. As soon as he encounters a 
sestige of- the Divine Majesty he surrounds it with respect ; 
as soon as he sees God, under whatever form God presents 
Himself, he yields to Him : " And to show that the faithful 
seirvant ought to bear all things, however contrary, for the 
Lord, the Scripture says in the person of the suffering : For 
Thee we suffer death aUthe day long ” : Et ostendens fidelem 
PRO domino universa etiam contraria suslinere debere, dicit... 
propter TE morte adficimur lota die. 

But love and confidence likewise animate the monk’s soul 
in all ^ these circumstances, painful as they are to nature. 
_ he remains steadfast, if he does not draw back or give 
in, Sustinens non lassescat, vel discedat, it is because a 
firm hope, full of love and spiritual joy, at the same time fills 
his soul and makes him say : " In all these things we over- 
come through Him Who hath loved us " : Et securi de spe 
retnbutionis divinae subseguuntur gaudenles et dicenles; sed 
mhis omnibus superamus propter eum qui dilexit nos. 

^ You see how in humility, our Holy Father never separates 
the confidence of ' the child who, through Christ’s grace, 
invincibly hopes in the goodness of his Heavenly Father, 
irom the reverence that possesses him on account of his 
condition as creature. 

Monastic submission goes so far that we reveal to our 
superior the state of our soul ; here we have the 5“> degree 
ot humility. Pride prompts us to exalt ourselves and seek 

I. Isa. L, 6. - 2. Luc. xxm, 9 . — 3 . Joan, xix, it. — 4. Ibid, xiv, 21. 


HUMILITY 


233 

the esteem of others, and consequently to hide our defects 
from them. It is therefore an act of humility to reveal 
voluntarily to another man the true state of our soul 1 ; 
and we do it because we revere God in this man : Revcla 
domino viam tuam, et spera in eo 2 . Notice the choice that 
St. Benedict here makes of this text. It is to the Lord, 
Domino, to the Lord Whom faith causes us to see in our 
Superior, that we unveil the state of our soul, assured that 
if we act as children, God will act towards us like a Father 
full of loving kindness : Et spera in eo. The fruit of this 
degree of humility is that God will lead us by a sure path, 
wherein we cannot go astray. 

But in order that this degree may be truly attained, it is 
necessary for us to be always very sincere with ourselves 
before God and before the one who holds God’s place, Revela. 
We ought to watch over the movements of our soul lest any 
falsehood in our attitude or dealings escape us ; others must 
be able to say of us : Qui loquitur veritatem in corde suo 3 . 
We should be " true ’’ in the sanctuary of ourselves in face 
of God, and be true with him to whom we yield our hearts 
for love of God : Veritatem ex corde et ore prof err e 4 , says our 
Holy Father. This is a great duty. We should never tolerate 
the least insincerity with ourselves. If we did so fre- 
quently, we should end by obscuring and blinding our 
conscience. It would then be impossible for our Lord to 
make of our soul His own abiding place of predilection, 
because we have not revealed to Him the state of our soul 
such as it is ; we have not that light of humility which shows 
us how little we are before God. 

The two last degrees of interior humility are very high. 
Knowing we have offended this God, so great, so full of ma- 
jesty, and that by our sins we have deserved to be under 
the feet of the devil, we are content with the worst of every- 
thing, and esteem ourselves, according to the spirit of the 
Gospel, as "unprofitable servants 5 .” We are so small a 
thing before God, our actions are of themselves so defective 
that we are incapable of doing anything without the grace 
of Christ Jesus. It alone gives worth to our deeds. It, 

x. In the terms of the ecclesiastical legislation actually «n 
Superiors cannot in any way urge their inferiors to disclo.e their c - 
to them ; but on the other hand it is in nowise forbidden for subjects P 
their hearts freely to their Superiors, and even, as is said in the L* e 5; , 

Code of Canon Law, " it is advantageous for religious to go 1 to their Superiors 
with filial confidence and thus also lay open to therm if these P L 
priests, the doubts and anguish of their conscience. can. 53°. 
xxxvi, 5. — 3. Ps. xiv, 3. — - 4. Rule, ch. iv. — 5. Luc. xvn, 10. 


234 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


HUMILITY 


235 


practically, we believe that we do a great deal by ourselves ; 
that we have a right to consideration because we have ren- 
dered such or such service, we have yet not arrived at this 
degree. St. Benedict does not hesitate to deal rigorously, 
on occasion, with these persistent forms of the spirit of 
self-exaltation. If, he says, among those who exercise an 
art or craft in the Monastery, there be any who are tempted 
to pride themselves on their attainments and skill, or on 
the benefit that the monastery derives from them, they shall 
be for ever forbidden to work at this art or craft 1 rather 
than expose their souls to spiritual detriment. 

The 7 th degree constitutes the summit of the virtue of 
humility : it is for a monk to believe himself, sincerely and 
from the bottom of his heart, the last of all men : Si omnibus 
se in/eriorcm el viliorem intimo cordis credat ajjectu. This is 
St. Paul's counsel : " In humility let each esteem others 
better than themselves ” : In humilitate superior es sibi invicem 
arbilrantes 2 . Few souls arrive at this height and live there 
habitually ; it is assuredly a gilt ol God. for this it is need- 
ful that the light ol the Holy Spirit should give the soul an 
intensely clear view of the Divine perfections, which makes it 
humble itself to its lowest depths ; then, seeing the nothingness 
that it truly is in presence of the Divine greatness, and 
considering the gifts of God in others, the soul inwardly places 
itself at the feet of all 3 . Whoever mounts towards this degree, 
will keep himself, in every circumstance, from judging himself 
better than others and from being severe to them. If God 
had acted with rigour towards us, if He had treated us 
according to strict justice, what would have become of us ? 
And are we so sure of ourselves ? For we must also consider 
the possibilities of evil that are to be found in us. May not 
one whom we are tempted to despise today, soon become 
better than we are ? Moreover, can we be sure of what 
our dispositions will be tomorrow ? Within us all, poor 
creatures that we are, there is a constant principle of insta- 
bility and deficiency that we have unceasingly to combat 
with the help of grace and the exercise of humility. 

May God deign to allow us to rest a moment, at least in 
thought^ and holy desire, on the sublime summit towards 
which St. Benedict has traced the path and marked the 
stages Thus beholding our ideal, let us be convinced of 
the truth of our nothingness and of the essential and constant 
need we have of help from above. 

1. Rule, ch. LVH. — 2. Philip, 3, _ 3. s . Thomas, Ibid. a. 3 ad 2. 


VI. 

From this interior humility of which St. Benedict has just 
shown us the ascending degrees, is derived exterior humility. 
The virtue resides principally in the soul : Humilitas praecipue 
interim in anima consistit 1 . Therefore the holy Patriarch 
speaks first of humility of soul. To wish to appear humble 
outwardly when one has not, and does not strive to acquire 
inward virtue, is a simulation in which there is something 
Pharisaical, and St. Benedict bids us beware of this 2 , 'or it 
is " immense pride, " says St. Thomas 3 . We should first 
of all aim at acquiring the interior virtue. If that is real, 
sincere, alive, well anchored in the soul, it will quite naturally 
manifest itselt outwardly, without difficulty as also without 
pretention. If we have interior humility, the body, by reason 
of the substantial unity ot our being, will express the reve- 
rence that fills the soul before God. Outward humility is 
only of any value if it is the real expression of inward humili- 
ty, or if it is the means employed to arrive thereat. A man 
must acquire and express humility by the movements of the 
soul and those of the body. We ought then to exercise 
ourselves likewise in outward humility even if we have not 
reached a high degree of the inward virtue. 

On account of the close union between soul and body, 
every act of virtue often repeated, such as striking the 
breast, keeping the eyes lowered, going down on one's knees 
to make “ satisfaction, " has its echo in the soul and neces- 
sarily influences the interior life. " When, ” says St. Au- 
gustine, " we prostrate at the feet of our brethren, this 
humiliation of the body disposes and stirs up our heart to 
inward self-abasement, or, if it was already humble, streng- 
thens it in humility 4 . ” It is then to help in the acquisition 
or in the strengthening of the inward virtue that the body 
should be humbled ; otherwise, it would be Pharisaical to 
wish to appear humble in the eyes of men when pride reigns 
in the heart. 

In this matter, however, there is need of a certain dis- 
cretion with those who take their first steps in the spiritual 
life ; humility is not acquired in one day, and novices ought 
not to wish to pass at the first onset from the free and easy 

1. II-II, q, CLXI, a. 3, Cf. a. 1, ad 2 and a. 6. St. Thomas very justly 
deducts from this principle that a Superior can perfectly weU possess the 
virtue of humility without performing exteriorly certain acts of humility little 
compatible with his dignity. — 2. Non velle did sanctum antequam sit, sal 
prius esse quod verius dicalur . Rule, ch. iv. — 3. n*n, q. clxi, a. 1, ad 2. 
— 4* Cum enim ad pedes fratris inclinatur corpus, etiarn tn corde ipso vel cxcita- 
iur f vel si jam inerat confirmalur f humilitalis affecius. Tract, tn Joan. 58, 



236 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

manners of an undergraduate to the attitudes of an ecstatic. 
The important thing is to aim at inward humility, and to 
practise it, with discretion but fidelity, so as to acquire the 
outward degrees. 

Another reason, which necessitates the outward practice 
of humility, is that this practice often serves as a diagnostic 
for knowing the reality of the virtue ; it reveals to us whether 
we are actuated by secret pride. This is a great point, for 
it is already a step towards humility to know that we do 
not yet possess it. Ask the proud man if he has a high 
opinion of himself; most often he will at once reply in the 
negative ; but, in practice, he will reveal himself as he is, in 
spite of himself, because from his secret pride will arise, as it 
were instinctively and often enough without his perceiving 
it, acts manifesting this pride. Thus you will see him, 
quite naturally, on account of the exaggerated sense of his 
importance, seek to impose his own opinion, and tend to 
act differently from others, — when he does not look down 
on them — to make himself conspicuous and singular, even 
in small matters 1 ; he worships his own person, his own ideas, 
his ways of doing things, although this is often uncon- 
sciously. Like the Pharisees he says : "I do this, I do 
that ; I am not like other men ” : Non sum sicut caeterl 
hommum 2 . He begins to speak as soon as a discussion 
begins ; you hear him raise his voice ; he never resists the 
longing to speak, and he speaks unceasingly without enduring 
contradiction ; he even imposes silence, often in a cutting 
tone. All this is a manifestation of pride, for our words are 
something of ourselves. 

The manner of laughing is no less a sure sign of the inward 
dispositions of the soul. One might ask what there is in 
aughter, this attribute peculiar to man, that is opposed to 

° ur 11 Hol ,y Fattler doe s not condemn laughter ; 
a monk habitually gloomy and morose would show that he 
does not run in the way of the commandments with that 
swee ness of love 3 " which St. Benedict promises to those 
i alt , hfu j- What the holy Legislator intends to 
kfnrf nf 1 firS l° f a11 , .(^is goes without saying) is the evil 
aughter which has its source in an underlying 

rnahciomlv 0 / nat f re ' U is the lau ghter of raillery which 
fu yS - St J GSS on the eccentricities and defects of 
found in k ls , t0 °, contrary to the Christian spirit to be 
found m those who seek God, ” those who ought to be 


the cenobmcaUHe^ — 7 a W Luc Sa ' d °n si , n S ulal % as opposed to 

-i. J^uc. xviii, 12. — 3. Prologue of the Rule. 


. HUMILITY 


l 


I 

1 


1 

i 

v 


1 

4 

i 1 



the temple of the Spirit of all holiness ; then St. Benedict 
above all condemns an habitual disposition to laugh readily, 
noisily, on all and every occasion : the habitual tendency 
to jest. If we have well understood that humility has its 
root in reverence towards God, a reverence itself resulting 
from the sense of the Divine Presence, we shall at once grasp 
how much reason the great Patriarch has in utterly condemn- 
ing, Acterna clausura l , this injurious tendency to buffoonery; 
this veritable dissolvant of inward recollection. 

The failings we have been recalling are never to be found 
in the humble monk whose soul is full of reverence for the 
Divine Majesty always present to him. He does not try 
to make himself different from others, quite the contrary. 
Seeing in the common Rule the expression of the Divine 
Will, he fears to deviate from it however little ; he does not 
speak on every occasion ; he knows how “ to keep silence, ” 
which is the atmosphere of recollection, " until a question 
be asked him. " When he laughs it is not like the fool who 
" lifteth up his voice in laughter ” ; * for reverence towards 
God is the antithesis, not of joy, but of the spirit of levity, 
of dissipation, of a bantering tone ; he keeps in his very speech 
the gravity and sobriety of the wise man who " is known by 
the fewness of his words. " Finally, his bearing, his gait 
everywhere express this inward humility, although without 
affectation ; his soul is visibly possessed by God ; the reve- 
rence for God that animates him inwardly makes him keep 
" his head bent downwards and his eyes downcast 3 . ” 

We may ask ourselves why it is that the monk who has 
scaled the degrees of humility and has attained solid virtue 
is to keep the attitude of a culprit, why it is that St. Benedict, 
who yet writes nothing without reflection, places ever — 
semper'— upon this monk’s lips and in his heart the words 
of the publican : " My God, I am not worthy to raise mine 
eyes to Heaven ” ? It is because in prayer God has given 
this humble soul a light upon the greatness of His perfections; 
in this divine light, the soul has beheld its own nothingness, 
and its least faults appear as intolerable stains. A ray 
from on high has touched the monk, and whether he be 
with his brethren, or alone, in prayer, in his cell, in the garden, 
he knows that the eyes of the Sovereign Master penetrate 
into the innermost recesses of his soul ; he lives in adoration, 
and his whole exterior bears witness to this adoration. 

1. Rule, ch. vi. — 2. Ubi timor ct tremor est, ibi non vocis elatio sed afitwiHS 
flebihs, et lacrymosa deject io . S. Hieronym. Epist. 13. Virginitatis laus, 
P. L. xxx, Col 175. — 3. Extollentia oculorum est quoddam si^num supermae 
in quantum excludit reverentiam et timor em. St. Thomas, ibid. a. 2, ad 1. 


i 

ii 




238 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

" When the soul... understandeth that God is present, she is 
humbled exceedingly, and receiveth confusion at the thought 
of her sins. And here the soul receiveth an exceeding weight 
of wisdom, a great consolation of God, a great joy 1 . " It is 
sufficient to look at the truly humble monk to understand 
that God’s Presence, which is the source of his reverence, 
is familiar to him, and that he has a profound sense of what 
the gravity of divine union brings with it. These traits 
might assuredly have been taken from our Holy Father’s 
portrait. His first biographer, Pope St. Gregory the 
Great, tells us that his life was nothing else than the faithful 
application of the Rule : “ The spirit of all the just filled 
the soul of the Patriarch. " There are however some virtues 
which particularly characterise him. Among the most salient 
of these traits is to be remarked an extraordinary spirit of 
adoration and reverence towards God 2 . Read, in fact, the 
Holy Rule ; you will see it throughout imbued with the 
spirit of religion. Whether he speaks of the Divine Office, 
of the reading of the Gospel, of the Gloria that ends each 
Psalm, St. Benedict insists on reverence. This same spirit 
is extended to the monk’s relations with his brethren, with 
guests, and even to the ustensils ot the monastery, which is 
the " House of God. " In our Holy Father’s sight, our 
whole life is bathed in an atmosphere of supernatural reverence. 

And the Holy Patriarch was himself the model of what he 
requires of his sons ; the picture of the humble monk which 
he draws in Chapter VII of his Rule, is without doubt, his 
own likeness. His soul, so dear to God that God granted 
to his prayers so many striking miracles, and vouchsafed to 
show him the entire world in a ray of light, was flooded 
with divine brightness ; and in this supernatural light, he 
saw the notliingness of every creature : Videnti Crealorem 
angusla esl creatura 3 ; he saw that God alone is the fount 
of all good, that He alone merits all glory, and knowing 
thus that all comes from God, he returned to Him all praise 
and all houour. 


1. BL Angela of Foligno. The Book of Visions, ch. 27. The Ineffable. 

A, Secula f, — - z. "St. Benedict’s gravity is essentially 

religious, that is to say that it results from an habitual and deep sense ot the 
Divine Presence. The responsibilities of our present life, and .the realisation 
J ° “ eternal life is at stake, the love of Christ, the sight of God’s judg- 
™Ju Ve »- preSe , nt , A ‘l this inner life of his tends to make gravity 

In or 8 °- f s ? u !> which radiates in the bodily attitude and behaviour, 

nw'viinfin Ct -tJ l u" d ’ ls . Jhe K aze fixed upon God, it is the sense of man’s 
and 6 will! 0 ! 1 W, m Hln j that banishes from life levity no less than dilettantism 

DiLt ub .Tc. X xxv Ee graVUy ’ " D ’ G< RyelaDdt ’ '• C — 3’ S ’ Gre S or ’ 


HUMILITY 


239 


E 

! 

I. 


VII. 


p or — and here I approach an important point — humility 


is truth . 

As St. Teresa says : “ Some think it humility not to believe 
that God is bestowing His gifts upon them. ’’ Is this 
honouring God ? Nothing is more unjustifiable. ” Let us 
clearly understand this, " adds the Saint, " that it is per- 
fectly clear God bestows His gifts without any merit whatever 
on our part What are we then to do in presence of divine 
graces ? Recognise that God alone is the Author and Prin- 
ciple of them : omne donum perfeefum desursum est, descen- 
ded a Paire luminum 1 , and thank Him for them with 
grateful hearts. " For if we do not recognise the gifts 
received at His hands, we shall never be moved to love Him. 
It is a most certain truth that the richer we see ourselves 
to be, confessing at the same time our poverty, the greater 
will be our progress, and the more real our humility... if we 
walk in simplicity before God, aiming at pleasing Him only, 
and not men 2 . ’’ 

True humility moreover does not deceive itself : it does 
not deny God’s gifts : it uses them, but returns all glory to 
Him from Whom they come. Look at the Blessed Virgin 
Mary chosen out from among all women to be the Mother 
of the Word Incarnate. No creature, after the Humanity 
of Jesus, has been filled with graces as she was : Ave, gratia 
plena 3 . She was surely conscious of this. Now when Eliza- 
beth congratulates her on her divine maternity, does the 
Blessed Virgin deny the signal favour of which she is the 
object ? Indeed not. She even acknowledges that it is a 
unique privilege, that " He that is mighty hath done great 
things ” to her, things so great, so marvellous that all genera- 
tions shall call her blessed. But, if she does not deny these 
graces, neither does she make them an occasion of glorifying 
herself ; she returns all the glory to God, the All-Powerful 
Who works them in her : Magnificat dnima mea Dominwn . 
This is the way the humble soul acts. 

Our Holy Father’s teaching is inspired with exactly the 
same spirit. “ Let the good that one sees in oneself, he 
says, “ be attributed to God and not to oneself " : Bontim 
aliquid in se cum viderit Deo applied, non sibi 5 . St. Benedict 
does not deny that we may be aware of the Divine gifts 


1. Jac.i, 17. — 2. Life of SI. Teresa by herself, ch. 10. Translated from 
the Spanish by David Lewis. Cl. also St. Francis of Sales Introduction to 
the De out Life , 3 ra part, ch. 5. — 3. Luc. i. *8. — 4. Ibid. 46-49* 5* 

Rule, ch. iv. 


f 




2J0 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

within us ; far from binding us to veil them from ourselves, 
he allows them to be seen : Cum viderii; having see them we 
shall feel urged to use them on every occasion in the service 
of Him Who has distributed them to us : Ex (Domino) omni 
tempore de bonis suis in nobis parendnm est 1 . Only we 
must not imagine they are due to us, but thank God for 
them. The holy Patriarch is still more explicit in his Pro- 
logue : Those who seek God, he says, fear the Lord (that is 
.the root of humility,) they do not pride themselves on their 
good observance ; knowing that the good which is in them 
does not come from themselves but from the Lord, they 
glorify Him for what He divinely works in them, saying 
with the Prophet : " Not unto us, 0 Lord, not unto us, 
but unto Thy Name give the glory 2 ” : Operantem in se 
Dominum magnificant. And St. Benedict adds : " So the 
Apostle Paul imputed nothing to himself of the success of 
his preaching, for he said : " By the grace of God I am 
what I am 3 , ” and again : “ He that glorieth, let him glory 
in the Lord 4 . " 

St. Paul’s example brought forward by St. Benedict is 
extremely well chosen for none has been a better exponent 
of humility than the great Apostle. Does he then deny his 
good works ? On the contrary he draws the picture of 
them as no other apostle has ever done. Does he despise 
God s gifts ? Oh no. He says : " We have received... the 
Spint that is of God ; that we may know the things that are 
given us from God” : Ut sciamus quae a Deo donata sunt nobis 6 . 
He knows these gifts, but it is that he may render thanks 
for them to the Father and His Son, Christ Jesus. It is in 
Christ s grace that he places all his glory, all his hope : Ut 
xnhabitet in me virlus Christi 6 . 

It is contrary to humility, " St. Thomas justly says, 
or a man to tend to things too high for him, relying on 
his own strength ; but if he puts his confidence in God and 
afterwards undertakes the most difficult things, this action 
+1 ^ co . ntrar y humility, above all when he considers 
at he rises so much the nearer to God in proportion as he 
su >?™ lts to Hlm the more profoundly by humility 7 . " 

„ , when . ° ur Holy Father considers the contingency of 
,„w P °? Slb ? thln , gs ” that mi S ht be commanded by obedience, 

, , a ^. oes b® tell the monk to do ? First of all to receive 
tne order m all meekness and submission. Then if after 
renexion the monk is convinced that the thing enjoined 


: . Prologue of the Rule 
7 -> 1 7- ■ — 5. I Cor. ii, i2. 


Ps.cxm, 9- — 3- I Cor. xv, io. — 4. II Cor. 
o. II Cor. xii, 9. — y. n-n, q. lcxi, a. 2, ad 2. 


HUMILITY 


241 


really exceeds his capacity and strength, he may represent 
these difficulties to his Superior, but if the latter, after 
having heard the objections, persists in the order given, 
then, says St. Benedict, let the monk know that the command 
is expedient for him, and putting his trust in God’s help, 
let him obey for love of Him ’’ : El ex caritate confidens de 
adjutorio Dei obediat 1 . God cannot fail a soul who acts thus. 

What we now say of individual injunctions is likewise to 
be extended to the charges and employments to which 
authority has full right to appoint. The presumptuous, 
even if they have not the necessary capacity, desire posts 
that place them in full evidence : on the other hand, those 
who have false humility decline every function, even those 
that they naturally feel themselves capable of exercising 
well. Both go to extremes. What our Holy Father re- 
commends is to accept out of reverence and love for God 
the charges given us, placing in God alone all our trust, 
while neglecting nothing in order to fulfil these charges 
with the greatest perfection possible. For in as far as He 
rejects those who exalt themselves, qui se exaltat humtUa- 
bilur 2 , so He lavishes His help on those who knowing their 
own weakness, place their confidence in the support of 
Heaven. . 

“ It is one thing, ” says St: Augustine, " to raise oneself 
up to God, and another thing to raise oneself up against 
Him ; he who casts himself down before God is uplifted ; 
he who rises up against God is cast down by Him 3 .. • 

VIII. 

The chief fruit of humility is to make us so pleasing to 
God that His grace, meeting with no obstacles, abounds in 
us and brings us the assurance of remaining united to God 
by love : this is the state of perfect charity. 

After having explained the different degrees of humility, 
St. Benedict concludes his comments with a phrase, which 
although so short is one of great depth, and mentb our 
special attention. " The monk who has ascended all these 
degrees of humility, ” he says, " will soon, ” mox- bear this 
word in mind — arrive at that perfect charity from whence 
all fear is cast out ” : Ergo his omnibus humilitahs gradibus 
ascensis, monachus mox ad caritalem Dei pervenxet tllam 
quae per j seta jortis mittit timorem. 

1. Rule, ch. lxviii. — 2. Luc. xiv, 11. — 3' Aliud est se utn'/ri, it itr^au’i 
alitti est levare se contra Deum. Qui ante ilium se projtcil ab >Uo g > 
adversus ilium se crisit ab illo projicitur. Sermo 351. Dt ultimate poeml 


242 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



You may have remarked that spiritual authors are some- 
times at variance or in some uncertainty when they have to 
regulate the rank of pre-eminence among the virtues. It is 
beyond doubt that the queen of virtues is charity ; but charity 
cannot exist in a soul without humility, which on account 
of our fallen nature is the condition sine qua non of the exer- 
cise of charity. Humility, then, is not perfection ; perfection 
as we have said, consists in the love wherewith we remain, 
in all things, united through Christ to God and to God’s 
Will. But humility, as St. Thomas well says, is “ a dispo- 
sition that facilitates the soul’s free access to spiritual and 
divine goods ” : Est quasi quaedam dispositio ad liberum 
accessum kominis in spiritualia et divina Iona '. Charity is 
greater than humility, as the perfection of a state is greater 
than the dispositions requisite to reach this state ; but 
humility, in achieving the work of removing the obstacles 
opposed to divine union, takes, from this point of view, the 
first rank. In this sense, St. Thomas 2 explicitly says humi- 
lity constitutes the very foundation of the spiritual edifice ; 
it is the disposition that immediately precedes perfect charity, 
so that without it and the work it does, the state of 
charity and of perfect union with God, cannot exist, still less 
be maintained. 

Although humility is then in this sense a negative dispo- 
sition, it is so necessary and so infallibly crowned by perfect 
charity, that in a soul that does not possess it, the spiritual 
edifice is ever exposed to ruin for lack of foundation ; while he 
who possesses it attains in all surety to the state of union. 
This is what was said by Blosius, so versed in the science 
of union with God : “ The humbler one is, the nearer he 
is to God and to perfection ” : Quanto quis humilior existit, 
tanto Deo vicinior et in perfeclione evangelica excellsntior est 3 . 

1 - u-ii,_q. clxi, a. 5, ad 4. — 2. " Primum " in acquisition e virlulum 
potest accipi duplicator : unontodo per modum removentis prohibens et sic hutni- 
litas primum locum tenet, in quantum scilicet expellit superbiam cui Deus 
resistit et praebct hominem subditum et patulum ad suscipiendum influxum 
divtnae gratiae, in quantum evacuai inflationcm supcrbiae. Et secundum hoc, 
humiltlas dicitur spirilualis aedificii fundamenlum. (a. 5, ad 2.) The holy 
Doctor next shows in what sense faith is said to be the first of virtues. Cl. 
Faith, the foundation of the Christian Life, in Christ, the Life of the Soul, and 
supra p. 95. See too above, pp. 215-217, the teafching of St. Bernard. The 
Abbot of Clairvaux expressed the same idea as the holy Patriarch : "Oh! 
how great must be this virtue of humility seeing that it can so easily attract 
and draw down to itself even the Divine Majesty I How quickly the name 
?i C f’. r u S5l 'i e reverence has been changed for the name inspired by love I 
\\ ith what celerity has He drawn nigh, Who awhile since was so far 
remote, c ito revcrentiae nomen in vocabulum amicitiae mutatum est;. el qui 
tmgccrat, in brf.vi fadus est props. (In Cantica, xliii, translated by a Priest 
ot Mount Melleray). in drevi et cito can be coupled with the mox of 
ot. Benedict. — 3. Canon vitae spirilualis, c. 7. 


HUMILITY 


243 


It is the sublime recompense of humility to contribute, 
more than any other virtue, to prepare the soul to the 
outpouring of the Divine gifts which assure perfect union 
with God : MOX ad caritatem Dei illam quae perjecta est 
perveniet.' " Nothing, in fact, is more sublime than this way 
of union, ” says St. Augustine, " but it is only the humble 
who walk in it " : Nihil excelsius via cantatis, et non in ilia 
ambulant nisi humiles 1 . It is not by exaltation, but by 
humility that we attain to God : Non elatione sed humilitate 

attingitur. . , , . , 

A glance back will enable us to judge how simple, and at 
the same time sure and profound, is the way marked out by 
our holy Patriarch whereby to lead us to God. By humility, 
itself derived from reverence towards God, St. Benedict 
would have the monk destroy the obstacles that can prevent 
the soul’s union with God. When this humility truly pos- 
sesses the soul, then the Holy Spirit’s action, being no longer 
opposed by sin or attachment to sin, to the creature, or to 
self, is all-powerful and fruitful. It is a remarkable thing 
that St. Benedict seems to have no longer any other direction 
to give his sons, once the degrees of humility are scaled by 
them. One would say that, for him, the .end is attained : 
he leaves his disciple, as it were, to the action of the Spirit ; 
for this soul anchored fast for ever in the fear of God and 
expecting all help from on high, is open to the divine effusions. 
Happy, thrice happy is the soul arrived at this state ! God 
acts freely in it, and leads it by the hand to the highest 
perfection, to the summits of contemplation ; for He wills 
our holiness, and His nature inclines Him to communicate 
Himself ; the only condition that He lays down is that His 
gifts and His action meet with no obstacle : tliis condition 
is fulfilled by humility. " May the Lord vouchsafe by the 
action of His Holy Spirit, to bring us to this happy state of 
perfect charity, after having, by the ascension of the degrees 
of humility, cleansed our soul from sin and vice . Qu <le 
Dominus jam in operarium sitttm mtlndum a peccalis et vitus 
Spiritu Sancto dignabiiur demonstrarel 


It now only remains for me to point out some means of 
i attaining this most indispensable virtue. . . 

The first of all means is prayer : Primo qmdem etprinct- 
paliter per gratiae donum 2 . A high degree of humility is a 

1. Enarrat. in Psalm, cxli, c. 7. — 2. S. Thom. Ibid. a. 6, ad 2. 



244 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


gift of God, as is a high degree of prayer. " Our Lord Him- 
self, " says St. Teresa, ” supplies (acts of humility) in a way 
very different from that by which we could acquire them by 
“bur own poor reflections, which are as nothing in comparison 
with that real humility arising out of the light Our Lord 
here gives us 1 . ” God Who infinitely desires to give Himself 
to us will certainly not reject our prayer, if we beg of Him 
to take away the chief obstacle that is opposed to His action 
in our souls. Let us often beseech God for that spirit of 
reverence which is the very root of humility and is one of 
the most striking characteristics of our Holy Father’s 
spirit: Confige timore tuo carnes meets*. Let us beseech Him 
to show us, in the light of His grace, that He is all and 
that without Him we are nothing ; one ray of Divine light 
can do more in this way than any reasoning. Humility 
might be called the practical reflexion of our intercourse 
with God. A soul that does not frequently enter into contact 
with God in prayer cannot possess humility in a high degree. 
If, even once, God gave us to perceive, in the depth of our 
soul, in the light of His ineffable Presence, something of His 
geatness, we should be filled with intense reverence for 
Him j the groundwork of humility would be acquired and 
we should only have to guard faithfully this ray of Divine 
light for humility to be developed and kept alive in us. 

Let us often give ourselves up to the consideration of the 
Divine perfections, not in a philosophic manner for the 
>> a -D r raind, but in a prayer and contemplation, 

e leve me,, says St. Teresa, " we shall advance more (the 
amt is spealang of humility) by contemplating the Divinity 
ky ■ keeping our eyes fixed on ourselves, poor creatures of 
eartti that we are... I believe we shall never learn to know 
ourselves except by endeavouring to know God, for, beholding 
is greatness we are struck by our own baseness, His purity 
° Ur ^ ou ness 3 ' This is so true ! The consideration of 
hnt iiaiserji maji j^roduce a ■passing sense of humility, 
. • , • !? Ue ’ w ^ lc h ls an habitual disposition, does not 

can hc^t tt? ’ r ?p rence towards God is the one cause that 
an beget the virtue, and above all render it stable *. 


2. See what we said above on th ? pam ? h b T David Lew is. — 

spirituality. — 3. The Interior l ^J. eh S\ous character of Benedictine 

Benedictines of Stanbrook p 10 ' M aasi0ns < ch - =• Translated by the 

of humility, it is undoiibb'd!v?,'«t„i 4 .‘ To keep our soul m the lowliness 
our misery, our deficiencies om-efrnS ■ t ° c °" sl d e r 'vhat we are: the sight of 
place and bring us back to the 15 "tr ca ' cu,!ltc| i to put us in our right 

and His perfections is a more However the consideration of God 

humiUty. •• D. Lottin, Vdme du cZlfe, t Jrtul r°e^?J ° p ““‘“S 


HUMILITY 245 

We monks find in the liturgy a great me^ns of knowing 
God’s perfections. , In the Psalms, which form the ground- 
work of the Divine Office, the Divine perfections are displayed 
to the eyes of our soul by the Holy Spirit Himself with 
incomparable wealth of expression. We are therein at every 
moment invited to admire God’s greatness and plenitude. 
When we say the Divine Office well, our soul little by little 
assimilates these sentiments expressed by the Holy Spirit 
on the perfections of the Infinite Being. 


Finally, one of the most important means is the contem- 
plation of the humility of Christ Jesus, and through faith, 
our union with the dispositions of His Sacred Heart. The 
great monk Blosius writes, that “ this contemplation is the 
most efficacious means for healing the wounds of pride 1 . ” 
Blessed Angela of Foligno says that when she saw the state 
to which Jesus was reduced as to His Manhood, she had an 
in klin g for the first time of the greatness of her pride 2 . 

More than once, in the course of the chapter that he 
consecrates to humility, St. Benedict recalls the example of 
Jesus Christ : he tells us to consider Him that we may find 
in Him the model of this virtue. Let us then contemplate 
our Divine Saviour for a few moments. In Him humility 
was rooted in the reverence that He had for His Father. 
The soul of Jesus, bathed in heavenly light, saw the Divine 
perfections in their plenitude, and this sight gave rise to 
intense and perfect reverence. Isaias says “ the Spirit o. 
the Lord shall rest upon Him, ” and you know how Our 
Lord applied to Himself this passage of the Prophet : Et 
requiescat super eum Spiritus Domini. But when he comes 
to speak of fear, the Prophet uses a more powerful expression. 
Et replebit eum Spiritus timoris Domini : “ He shall be 
filled with the spirit, of the fear of the Lord 3 . What is 
this fear that filled the soul of Christ Jesus ? It .was not 
terror ; for it could not be question of the fear of chastisements 
Neither was it the fear of offending God : Christ, enjoying 
the Beatific Vision, was impeccable. What then was. this 
fear ? Respect and adoration towards the Divine Majes y. 
And even now, although the Manhood of Jesus reigns in 


,, 1. Nullo alio efficaciori remedio ulceribus super biae h ™sa 

litatein Sa'vatoris tibi ob oculos animi poms. Nequc emm ipse s me causa 
dixit; Discite a me quia mitts sum et htimilis corde. Canon v humility w e 
C. 7. Saint Teresa said the same : (1. c.) ” By meditating on H.s humility we 
find how vpru far nr#* from hftincf humble. See also . 


find how very far we are from being humble. See als ^ • j sa> 

Epiphania, Serrao i. 7. — 2. The Booh 0} Vtstons, i3> 3 

V2-3. 





246 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

gloria Palris, His soul remains lost in perfect reverence. 
Christ is and remains the great, the only perfect adorer 
of the Blessed Trinity. His Humanity is that of a God, 
but this Humanity was created, and as a creature it ever 
humbled Itself before God in infinite reverence. 

It was likewise to expiate our pride and to show us what 
our humility ought to be, that Christ descended to the 
lowest depths of humiliation. Christ does not tell us to 
learn humility from the Apostles, nor from the Angels ; no, 
He tells us to learn it from Himself. In proportion to the 
height of His Majesty is the depth of His humility. " He 
gave Himself unto us as an example of humility... when 
He said ‘ Learn of Me for I am meek and humble of heart. ’ 
...Look deep down into the depth and usefulness of this 
doctrine and regard the sublimity and worth of tills instruc- 
tion 1 . ” 

X. 

; If we frequently contemplate Christ Jesus in His Passion, 
if wc are united to Him by faith, we may be assured that He 
will make us participate in His humility, His reverence 
towards His Father, and submission to His Father’s Will. 

Neither let us forget this profound truth that the Sacred 
Humanity had its motive power only in the Word to Whom 
It was united. Its actions were truly Its own because the 
Human Nature in Jesus was perfect, but their value was 
derived only from the union of the Humanity with the Word. 
The Humanity referred to the Divinity the glory of all Its 
actions which were admirably holv. 

It ought to be the same for us in the domain of our 
spiritual activity.. We can do nothing ol ourselves ; let us 
humble ourselves in beholding the Divine perfections and be 
penetrated with reverence. We should next place all our 
confidence in our union with Jesus Christ through faith and 
0 ,'l e - * n Hi m . through Him, with Him, we are the children 
or the Heavenly Father. That is the source of this confidence 
ln . . w , hl ™ our lowliness finds its counterpart, and without 
which it would be but imperfect humility and an occasion 
ot discouragement. To imagine that, even with Christ’s 
help, we are incapable of good actions, is to lose sight of the 
greatness of Jesus' merits ; it is to lay open our soul to spiri- 
tual distrust and despair which are the fruits of hell. By 

Alf thil’ Kn^?!n,| 0f i. Fol .' Kn0 L ?■’ ch ‘ 6 3> translated by a Secular Priest. 
au this beautilul chapter should be read. 


HUMILITY 


247 


true humility we have no confidence in ourselves, "as of 
ourselves ” : Non quod sufficienles sirnus cogitare aliquid a 
nobis quasi ex nobis ; our power comes from God Who, 
naturally and supematurally, gives us being, life and move- 
ment : Sed sufficients nostra .ex Deo est... 1 In ipso enim 
vivimus, movemur cl sumus 2 . And this power extends to all 
things, because we have boundless confidence in the merits 
of our’ Divine Head, Christ Jesus. 

The proud who claim to draw their power from themselves, 
commit the sin of Lucifer who said : “ I Will ascend into 
Heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God... 
I will be like the Most High. ” 3 Like Lucifer they will be 
overthrown and cast down into the abyss : Qui se exaltat, 
humiliabitur*. But what do we say ? That without Christ, 
we can do nothing as He has Himself declared: Sine me 
nihil poteslis facere. We declare that .it is through Jesus, 
with Jesus that we can arrive at - holiness and enter into 
Heaven ; we say to Christ : “ Master, I am poor, miserable, 
naked, weak, of this I am daily more and more convinced ; if 
Thou hadst treated me, at certain hours of my life, as I deserv- 
ed I should be under the feet of devils. But I know too 
that Thou art ineffably powerful, great, and good ; I know 
that the Father Thou lovest so much hath given all so- 
vereignty into Thy hands. I know that He hath placed in 
Thee all the treasures of holiness that men may desire ; I 
know that Thou wilt never reject those who come to Thee. 
Therefore, whilst adoring Thee in the deepest recesses of my 
soul, I have full confidence in Thy merits and satisfactions ; 
I know tnat altogether miserable as I am, Thou canst by 
Thy grace shower Thy riches upon me, uplift me even to 
the Divinity, that I may be made like unto Thee and may 
share in Thy Divine Beatitude 1 ’’ . 

It is the Father’s supreme desire that His Son be glorified : 
Clarificavi et iterxim clarificabo E . Now, we never glorify Our 
Lord so much as when we acknowledge by our whole life that 
He is the sole Fount of every grace. Onfy true humility 
can render this homage to God and to Jesus, for humble 
souls alone feel the need of Christ’s merits and have faith 
in them. Pride and false humility cannot nourish such 
sentiments. Pride looks for everything from itself ; it does 
not feel the habitual necessity of having recourse to Christ. 
As to false humility, it declares itself incapable of everything, 
even in presence of grace ; by this it does a wrong to the 

1. II Cor. in, 5. — 2. Act. xvii, 28. — 3. Isa. xiv, 13. 4 - f* 110 ' ' UN| 

— 5-Joan. xii, 28. 



248 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

merits of Jesus : it casts down the soul without glorifying 
God. 

Christ Jesus said one day : Ego si exaltatus fuero a terra 
omnia IraJtam ad meipsum 1 . When I shall be lifted up from 
the earth, upon the Cross, My power will be such that I 
shall be able to lift up to Me those who have faith in Me. 
Those who looked upon the brazen serpent, in the desert, 
were healed ; thus those who look upon Me with faith and 
love will be drawn to Me, despite their sins, their wounds 
and their unworthiness, and I will lift them as high as 
Heaven. I, Who am God, consented for love of thee to 
hang upon the Cross as one accursed. In return for this 
humiliation I have power to raise With Me even to the 
heavenly splendours whence I descended, those who believe 
in Me. I came down from Heaven, I shall ascend thither 
taking with Me those who hope in My grace. This grace is 
so powerful that it can unite thee to Me, and unite thee so 
indissolubly that no one can snatch out of My hands those 
whom My Father has given Me, those whom I have, through 
pure mercy, redeemed with My precious Blood 2 . 

What a perspective full of consolation for the humble 
soul is that of one day sharing in the exaltation of Jesus, 
owing to His merits ! St. Paul speaks to us in sublime terms 
of this supreme exaltation of Our Lord, the counterpart of 
His abasements. " Who being in the form of God emptied 
Himself... For which cause God also hath exalted Him, 
and hath given Him a name which is ' above all names : 
that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those 
that are in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth : and that 
every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is 
m the glory of God the Father ” : Semetipswn exinanivit... 
■propter quod, et Dcus cxaltavit ilium 3 . It is because Jesus 
-® rase ^ to suffer the ignominy of the gibbet that 
God has exalted His Name to the highest. heavens. Sublime 
is the glory, sovereign is the power which the Man-God enjoys 
seated at the right hand of the Father in eternal glory. 
And this incomparable triumph is the fruit of an incommen- 
surable humility. 

We here find again the whole teaching of our Holy Father, 
tte too tells us that in order to arrive at that exaltatio caelestis 
w ere he soul is absorbed in God, it is necessary to pass 

rough humiliations. Here below, humility leads us from 
the renouncing °f sin to the fulness of charity: Mox ad 
a ern perfectam perveniet. In the measure wherein the 

1. Joan xii, 32. — 2 . Cf. Joan, x, 29. — 3. Philip, u, 7 a .nd 9. 


HUMILITY 


249 


soul advances in humble submission, it is raised towards 
Divine union. It is also raised towards heavenly glory. 
The law recalled by St. Benedict at the beginning of the chap- 
ter is that laid down by Jesus Christ Himself, our Model. 
It is admirably verified in Him ; but this law touches all 
the members whereof He is the Head, and Christ prepares 
a glorious place in His Kingdom only for those who upon 
earth have participated in His Divine humiliations: Qui sc 
humiliat exallabitur. 


BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 


251 



XU. _ BONUM OBEDIENTIAE l . 


Summary. — Obedience is the practical expression of humility in 
the monk. — I. Christ brings humanity back to the Father 
by His obedience ; every Christian must be united to this 
obedience in order to attain to God. — II. For the monk, 
too, obedience is the path that leads to God. — III. The high 
concept that St. Benedict has of this virtue. — IV. Why he 
calls it a " good ” : Bonum obedientiae. — V. How this virtue 
constitutes for the monk an ineffable means of acquiring 
perfection. — VI. Principal qualities that St. Benedict 
requires in the exercise of this virtue : faith. — VII. Alieno 
judicio ambulare. Fruitfulness and greatness of obedience 
guided by faith. — VIII. Obedience should be sustained by 
hope. — IX. St. Benedict desires that above all it proceed 
from love. — X. Different deviations from this virtue ; why 
St. Benedict is so strongly opposed to murmuring. — XI. The 
vigilance we must have In order to live perfectly according to 
this virtue. 


T he foundation of spiritual life is, as we have seen accor- 
ding to St. Benedict and St. Thomas, constituted in 
some way by humility, this virtue being the 
preliminary and necessary disposition for the state of perfect 
charity to be established in the soul : mox ad. caritalem Dei 
perveniet illam quae perjecta [csf] 2 . 

But, as our Holy Father has shown, the practical expression 
of humility, with the monk, Ls obedience. Indeed, when 
the soul is full of reverence towards God, it submits itself 
to God and to those who represent Him, in order to do 
His will in all things : Humilitas proprie respicit reverentiam 
qua homo Deo subjicitur... propier quem etiam aliis humiliando 
se subjicit^. Now this is obedience. This virtue is the fruit 
and crown of humility 4 . Obedience, said the Eternal Father 
to St. Catherine of Siena, in one of the dialogues He vouchsaf- 
ed to have with her “ has a nurse who feeds her, that is true 

t. Rule, ch. lxxi. — 2,_ Ibid. ch. vii. — 3. S. Thom, n-n, q, clxi, a. 3 ; 
1 a “ 5;— 4- " The consideration of God’s perfections is inseparable from 
that of His rights. Now is it not just that if God exercises His rights by 
enacting laws, man should respond to them by an active submission r 
Obedience will be born of humility as its eldest daughter, inclining us to 
submit ourselves not only to God, but to superiors and events, because ill 
them we shall see reflected the perfections and absolute rights of the Creator. ” 
D. Lottin, L atne du Cults, la verlu de religion, p. 44, 


humility. Therefore a soul is obedient in proportion to her 
humility, and humble in proportion to her obedience... 
Without this nurse (which is humility) obedience would 
perish of hunger, for obedience soon dies in a soul deprived 
of this little virtue of humility 1 

This obedience completes the work of abolishing any 
obstacles yet opposed to divine union. Poverty has removed 
the danger accruing from exterior belongings ; the “ con- 
version of manners ” represses the tendencies of concupiscence 
and is careful to eliminate, in a general manner, all that, 
properly speaking, is imperfection ; humility, going still 
further to the root of the matter, refrains all inordinate 
self-esteem. What yet remains to be overcome ? Self- 
will. That is the citadel of the “ego.” But once this 
will is surrendered, and it surrenders by obedience, all is 
given. The soul has nothing more belonging to it, nothing 
that it any longer possesses as its own ; God can henceforward 
exercise His action over it in all plenitude : there are no 
more obstacles opposed to His Divine action. 

By perfect obedience, man lives in the truth of his being 
and of his condition : that is why this virtue is so fundamental 
and so pleasing to God. God, Who is the plenitude of 
Being, Who has no need of anyone or anything, created man 
freely and bv a movement of love. From this primordial fact, 
the essential relations between ourselves and God are derived ; 
a creature is something essentially dependent upon God : 
" In Him we live, and move, and are ” : In ipso vidimus, 
et movemur et sumiis 2 . Hence it would be going against 
the eternal law not to recognise this condition by our entire 
dependence in regard to God. What is the cry that should 
burst forth from the very depths of our being as^ creatures ? 
Venite, adoremus : Come, let us adore the Lord ! And why ? 
" For He is the Lord our God ” : and He has made us : Est 
Dominns Dens noster 3 . As reasonable creatures we ought to 
express our dependence by adoration and the submission of 
obedience. We see God requiring this obedience throughout 
the history of the human race, at each page of the Bible. 
The great saints of the Old Testament shine in obedience , 
we hear them ever renewing the cry repeated by Abraham, 
the father of believers : Adswn i . “ Here I am. Christs 
coming upon earth renders us ':he children of God , hence- 
forward our obedience has taken a new shade of meaning, 


1. Dialogue translated by Algar Thorold, PP- J mamitcent 

contains an excellent treatise on Obedience. The Saint relates, 1 6 

terms, the praise of obedience as she heard it from the Etern< 

2. Act. xvii, 28. — 3. Ps. cxiv, 6-7. — 4* Gen. xxn, x, n* 



252 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

a new character : it is an obedience full of love ; but this 
special seal placed upon our obedience, while giving it a 
special splendour, takes away nothing of its fundamental 
character which links it to humility and imbues it with re- 
verence and religion. 

If obedience is infinitely pleasing to God it is no less 
beneficial to the soul. God reigns as Master and Sovereign 
in the obedient soul, but as a Sovereign Who is infinitely 
good and lavishes His gifts and graces upon it. 

Obedience is named in the last place in the formula of 
our monastic profession ; in our Vows it occupies supreme 
rank. Let us then study its source — its nature — the 
qualities it ought to have — and from what deviations it 
must be preserved. 

I. 


The principle that makes obedience so necessary for us 
as monks is that this virtue resumes in itself the means of 
finding God. Why have we come to the monastery ? What 
is our object in living here ? There is but one : to seek God, 
to tend towards Him with all the energies of our being. 
But as we have often remarked, it is by following Christ 
Jesus that we find God, for it is He alone who brings humanity 
back to God : Ego sum via ; nemo venit ad Patrem nisi -per 
Me 1 . And how does Christ achieve this gigantic work ? 
By His obedience. 

He declares that He has not come to do His own will 
but that of His Father Who sent Him 2 ; obedience is as 
it were His daily bread : Mens cibus est ul faciam voluntatem 
eius qui misit me 3 . During thirty years He obeys two crea- 
tures, Mary and Joseph: El erat subditus illis i . Despite 
the transcendency of His Divinity, although He is the 
supreme Lawgiver and could have dispensed from Plis own 
laws. He will fulfil them even to the least detail : Iota un-um 
aut unus apex non praeteribit a lege, donee omnia fiant 5 . We 
see Him seeking above all things to do always, under every 
circumstance, what pleases His Father : Quae placila sunl ei 
facio semper 6 He accepts the Passion because it expresses 
His Father s will : Sicut mandatum dedit mihi Pater sic facio 7 . 

And see how this obedience especially shines out in His 
sufferings. During that terrible three- hours’ agony, all the 
sensitive part of His being shrinks from the bitter chalice : 


r M/t 0 th n 'v X, Tf! 6 ' T Ibid ' V ‘* 38 ' ~ 3 ‘ I r b ‘ d - ,V> 3 ' 4 ' ~ 4 ' LUC - «. 51. - 

5- Matth. v, i8, — 6. Joan. :v, 34.-7. Joan, xiv, 31. 


BONUM OBEDIENT I AE 


253 


" Father if Thou wilt, remove this chalice from Me ” : Paler, jj 

si vis, transfer calicem istum a me; but His reasonable will 
remains submissive to the Divine decree : “ Yet not My will, 
but Thine be done ” : V erumtamen non mea voluntas, — sed 
tua fiat 1 . He is presently arrested as a malefactor; he 
could deliver Himself from His enemies who at a single word 
from Him are thrown to the ground ; He could, if He so 
willed, ask His Father Who would have given Him " more j 

than twelve legions of Angels, ” but He desires only that 
His Father's will, as manifested by the Scriptures, shall be j 

fulfilled to the letter: Sed ut adimpleantur Scripturae z , and j 

therefore He gives Himself up to His mortal foes. He j 

obeys Pilate because, although a pagan, the Roman gover- j 

nor represents the authority from above 3 . He obeys His ;j 

executioners ; at the moment of expiring, in order to fulfil ji 

i a prophecy, He cries out : “ I thirst : ” Postea, sciens Jesus j 

quia omnia consummata sunt, ut consummaretur Scriptura [! 

dixit : Sitio 4 . He does not die until all has been consummat- j 

ed by a perfect obedience : Dixit : consummatum est, et incli- 
naio capite, tradidit spiritum 5 . The Consummatum est is the i 

most true and adequate expression of His whole life of j 

obedience. It echoes the Ecce venio of the moment of His 
Incarnation. 

Now, says the Apostle, as it was through Adam’s disobe- 
dience that we became sinners and the enemies of God, so 
it was through this obedience of Christ that we are justified 
j and saved. A great disobedience and a great obedience are 
the two factors of the loss and salvation of the human race. 

This is the explicit teaching of St. Paul: sicut per . inobedien- 
tiam unfits hominis pcccatores constituti sunt multi, ita et per 
unius obeditionem, justi conslituentur multi*. 

This obedience of Christ is the means preordained by God 
for saving the world and restoring to it the heavenly inhe- 
ritance ; it was an expiation for the disobedience of Adam, 
our first father ; and we go to God by uniting our obedience 
to that of Christ Jesus, become the Head of our race. All 
Adam’s miseries have fallen upon us because we had soli- 
• darity in his sin ; we have a share in all the blessings that 
overflow from the holy soul of Christ Jesus when we share 
in His obedience. All the economy of God’s designs for our 
sanctification converge for us in a state of obedience. When 
the Father sent His Son upon earth, what did He say to 
the Jews ? “ This is My beloved Son. Hear ye Him. 

1. Luc. xxn, 45. — 2. Marc, xiv, 49. — 3. Cf. Joan, xix, it. 4- Ibid, xix, 

*8. — 5. Ibid, xix, 39. — 6. Roui. v, 19. 


254 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


BONTJM OBEDIENTIAE 


255 


Ipsum audite 1 . As much as to say to them : Do what My 
Son bids you ; obey Him : that is all I ask in order to give 
you My friendship. 

Now that Christ has left us and ascended into Heaven, 
He has given His powers to the Church : Data esl mild 
onvnis potestas in caclo et in terra; cuntcs ergo docctc omnes 
gentes servare omnia quaecumque mandavi vobis 2 . *' All power 

has been given Me by My Father ; go then in virtue of this 
power that I delegate to you, teach all nations to keep My 
commandments. He who hears you, hears Me ; he who 
despises you despises Me. ” 

The Church is invested with the authority of Jesus Christ ; 
she speaks and commands in Our Lord’s name ; and the 
essence of Catholicism consists in the submission of the 
intellect to Christ’s teaching transmitted by the Church, 
and in the submission of the will to Christ’s authority exercis- 
ed by the Church. 

It is in this that the difference lies between Protestants 
and Catholics. This difference indeed is not measured by 
the greater or lesser sum of revealed truths admitted by one 
or the other; certain Protestants accept material^ nearly 
all our dogmas, and yet they remain Protestants to the 
marrow of their bones. The difference is much deeper and 
more radical. It practically lies in the attitude of depen- 
dence, of obedience of the intellect and of the will in regard 
to the living authority of the Church which teaches and 
governs in the name of Christ the Son of God. The Catholic 
accepts the Church’s dogma and regulates his conduct ac- 
cording to this dogma because he sees in the Church, and 
her head the Sovereign Pontiff, another Christ. The Pro- 
testant admits such or such a truth because he discovers 
it ~ or imagines himself to do so — by his personal lights. 
Claiming the right of private interpretation and reading the 
Bible according to his reason alone, he takes or leaves what 
he will : each one then, keeping his faculty of choosing, is 
his own sovereign pontiff. The Protestant admits, the Ca- 
tholic believes. As soon as the Church speaks, the Catholic 
submits in all obedience as to Christ Himself. 

Recall the scene in the Gospel described by St. John in 
his 6 th chapter. Jesus speaks to the multitude of people 
whom He had miraculously fed on the previous day. He 
announces to them the Eucharistic Bread : Ego sum panis 
mvus : I am the Living Bread which came down from 

heaven. If any man eat of this Bread, he shall live for 

r. Matth. xvii, 5. — 2. Ibid, xxvm, 18-20. 


I 

t 

I 






1 


ever. ” At these words, His listeners are divided into two 
groups. The one begins to reason : these are the Pro- 
testants : quomodo? " How can this man give us His flesh 
to eat ? ” Now how does Jesus act in the face of this reason- 
ing ? Does He give any explanation? No, He contents 
Himself with affirming what He has just said with more 
insistency. Amen, amen, dico vobis.. "Amen, Amen, Isay 
unto you : Except you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and 
drink His Blood, you shall have not life in you. ” Then 
no longer finding this “ reasonable, ” Durus est hie sermo 
et quis potest eum audire, they leave Christ : Jam non cum 
illo ambulabant. But there is another group formed of the 
Apostles. In these same circumstances what is their atti- 
tude ? Do these disciples understand any better ? No, 
but having faith in Christ's word, they remain with Him to 
follow in His steps throughout all : Domine, ad quern ibimus? 
verba vitae aeiernae habes 1 . 

Such is the attitude that procures salvation : to listen to 
Christ, to listen to the Church, to accept her doctrine and 
submit oneself to what she directs : who despises her, despises 
Christ. This is why Protestants do not belong to Christ’s 
flock 2 ; these sheep obey themselves, they follow their own 
personal caprices, and do not hear the Shepherd's voice. 

Thus Christ does not recognise them : Non eslis ex ovibus 
meis 3 . v 

Obedience of intellect and will is then the way of life for 
every Christian, for every soul: Qui vos audit, me. audit*, 
qui sequitur me, non ambidat in tenebris, sed habebii lumen 
vitae*. We are the children of the Heavenly Father only 
on condition of hearing His Son Jesus ; and, here on earth, 
we obey Christ in the person of the Church; this is the 
supernatural economy instituted by God Himself ; apart 
from this way of obedience in the faith, there is no salvation 
possible. *' No one, ” said the Father to St. Catherine of 
Siena, “ can enter into eternal life unless he be obedient ; 
for obedience was the key with which was unlocked the door 
which had been fastened by the disobedience of Adam 6 . 


II. 

What is true of the Christian is, a fortiori, true of the 
monk. Christ Jesus brings humanity back to His Father 

1. Joan, vi, 41-69. — 2. Reservation of course made in regard to those 
who, being in good faith, belong to the soul of the Church. — 3- J oa “- x, 20, 

4- Luo. x, 16. — 5. Joan, viii, 12. — 6. Dialogue; 0 / Obedience, ch. 1. 



256 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

by His obedience ; every one must unite himself to Christ 
in His obedience in order to find God. Neither in this, as 
in anything else, does Christ separate Himself from His 
Mystical Body ; the Christian must take his share in obedience 
and accept it in union with his Divine Head. 

Our holy Legislator teaches no other doctrine than that 
of Christ and St. Paul. His words on this point are but 
the direct echo of the Gospel and the teaching of the great 
Apostle. At the very beginning of the Prologue he points 
out to us what is to be our end : " To return to God. ” 
Immediately afterwards he indicates the means : we must 
return to God by obedience since it was by the sloth of dis- 
obedience that we turned away from Him. "To thee 
therefore, ” he adds, “ my words are now addressed that 
renouncing thine own will in order to fight for the Lord 
Christ, our true King, dost take in hand the strong and bright 
weapon of obedience. " St. Benedict knows but one way of 
leading us to God : this is by union -with Jesus Christ in 
His obedience : “ Let the brethren know that it is by the 
path of obedience they shall come to God ” : Scientes per 
hanc obedientiae viam sc ituros ad Deum L 

This obedience certainly, first of all, has for its object the 
natural law and the strictly Christian law. We are only 
monks if we are first honest men and perfect Christians. 
The monk submits himself to Christ in the person of the 
Church as does the simple Christian. But he goes further. 
Ihe obedience of the Christian while imposing certain sacri- 
fices upon human nature, and certain duties to be fulfilled, 
leaves intact the free disposition that the individual has over 
his fortune, business, time and activity. Simply Christian 
obedience is limited to the precepts contained in the 
Decalogue, and the commandments of the Church, which, 
are themselves completed by each one’s duties of state. 
God asks nothing more in order to give His heaven : Si vis 
ad vitam ingredi, serva mandata 2 . 

But there are souls whom love constrains to follow Christ 
more closely, Qui nihil sibi a Christo carius aliquid existi- 
tnanl 3 , that they may share His life of obedience more 
intimately. These souls hear the counsel of Jesus. “ If 
thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast; ...and come 
follow Me": Veni, sequere Me*. These souls have been 
more enlightened from above upon the Divine attributes, 
upon the greatness of a life of perfection, upon the sublimity 

xix 2i Ul °’ Ch ‘ LXXI ' ~ Z ‘ Matth ' XIX > '7. — 3. Rule, ch. v. — 4. Matth. 



BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 


257 


of a complete imitation of Christ Jesus. " For love of God, " 
pro Dei amore l , to give God greater glory, they seek a more 
exacting obedience than is imposed upon the simple faithful. 
An infallible supernatural intuition has revealed to them 
that it is more just, and they thereby give more adoration 
and more love to God. 

By his profession, the monk strives to submit all that is in 
him to Christ ; he does not wish anything to subsist that can 
be an obstacle to union between him and Christ ; he wants 
to surrender to Him his whole being and every detail of his 
life, because his adoration and his love aim at being perfect. 
As long as we hold the citadel of self-will we have not 
surrendered everything to God; we cannot say to our Lord 
in all truth : “ Behold we have left all things and have follow- 
ed Thee 2 . ” When we give ourselves by obedience we ac- 
complish a supreme act of adoration and love towards God. 
Indeed there is one thing that is sacred to us even in God’s 
sight. God touches our goods, the beings dear to us, our 
health, our existence ; He is the absolute Master of life and 
death ; but there is one thing that He respects, namely, our 
liberty. He desires, with infinite desire, to communicate 
Himself to us, and yet the action of His grace is, if I may 
thus express myself, subordinate to our acquiescence : that 
is, in a very real sense, our liberty is sovereign. Now, in 
religious profession, we come before the altar, we take 
precisely what is most precious to us and out of love for 
God, in order the better to confess His omnipotence, we im- 
molate to Him, in union with Christ, this " Isaac ” this 
darling of our heart which is our liberty, and we give God 
full domain over our whole being and activity. Failing 
martyrdom which is not at our disposal, we immolate our- 
selves as far as it depends upon us, by the vow of obedience. 

The sacrifice is immense ; it is besides extremely pleasing 
to God. “ To leave the world and give up exterior posses- 
sions, ” says that great monk, St. Gregory, “is perhaps some- 
thing still easy ; but for a man to give up himself, to immolate 
what is most precious to him by surrendering his entire liberty 
is a much more arduous work : to forsake what one has is 
a small thing ; to forsake what one is, that is the supieme 

gift.” 3 Without this gift, the sacrifice is not entire. He 


. 1- Rule, ch. VII. — 2. Matth. xix, 27. — 3- El torlasse labortosum non at 

homini rclinqucre sua, sel valde laboriosum est rclinqucre semeltpsum. Mums 

quippc est abnegare quod habet; valde aulem mvlturn est abnegate 

Ho, nil. 32 in Evang. V. L. 76, 1233. Cf. St Mechtilde. The Book 0 / Special 

Grace, 4U1 par t ( c h, XV1II , How our Lord clasps in Hts arms those who vow 

obedience. 




i 




is not detached from all, ” said another holy monk, " who 
still retains himself ; moreover, it serves for nothing to relin- 
quish ever5' thing unless he relinquish himself ” : Non enim 
relinquit omnia qui retinuit vel scipsum ; into vero nihil prodest 
sine seipso caelera reliquisse 1 . 


III. 


It is to be remarked that the gift we thus make of ourselves 
on the day of our profession subjects us to a definite obe- 
dience ; we vow obedience " according to the Rule of St. Be- 
nedict” : Promitto... obedientiam secundum Regulam S. P. N. 
Benedicti 2 . Consequently, we must well understand the holy 
Patriarch’s concept of religious obedience. For there is obe- 
dience and obedience ; and as this virtue is one of the prin- 
ciples of our life, if the idea we form of it is erroneous, all 
our monastic existence will be falsified. There is an erro- 
neous conception of obedience which no religious soul could 
accept. This conception makes of the superior a sage, an 
expert whom one has promised to consult, and to whom 
one goes out of prudence to learn what has to be done, and 
in order to avoid errors and mistakes. What the superior 
says is worth just what he knows, neither more nor less ; 
his personal knowledge gives all the weight to his replies. 
This manner of seeing things, essentially rationalistic, would 
suit the spirit of Protestantism ; the idea of submission, of 
homage paid to God in the person of a man is totally absent. 
The mere fact of mentioning this conception is sufficient to 
condemn it. 

Neither could the Catholic sense of what is right be satisfied 
with a merely outward obedience, such as is sufficient in the 
army. Although in each particular case, the immediate object 
of obedience is exterior and the intention is not seen by the 
superior, yet perfection demands that the monk should 
animate the exercise of his obedience by interior submission 3 . 

In religious obedience itself, such as it is conceived by 
Holy Church, there are different modes to be distinguished. 
Of cause it is not here a question of criticising any one or 
anything whatsoever : all the religious orders approved by 
the Church procure God's glory and are pleasing to Him ; 
our intention is only to lay stress, by way of comparison, 
on what is special in Benedictine obedience. In some in- 
stitutes, obedience is strongly marked with an economic 


I. S. Petr. Damian, In natalc S. Benedicti, P. L. lit, 5.(0. — 

of Monastic Profession. — 3. See further on § viii and ix. 


2. 


Ceremonical 



BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 


character. Without ceasing to be the object of a vow and 
of a virtue, it is a means for arriving at a particular, special 
end, fixed by the constitutions of the said 'institutes. Thus 
such an Order or Congregation has for its special end the 
evangelising of the heathen, another teaching, a third preach- 
ing. Obedience concurs in carrying out the particular work 
to which these institutes are dedicated. Those who belong 
to these Orders and submit themselves generously to this 
obedience for love of our Lord surely attain holiness, because? 
for them, it is the vocation to which Christ has called them. 

With St. Benedict, obedience has not this " economic ” 
character. It is to be desired in itself as the soul’s homage to 
God, independently of the nature of the material work which 
is its object. Let us suppose that the postulant in presenting 
himself at the monastery puts this question to the Abbot : 
" What do you do here ? " He will be told : " We go to 
God by following Christ in obedience. ” That is the sole end 
pursued. Such is certainly the teaching of our Holy Father, 
from the first lines of the Prologue which we have recalled. 
To seek after God, Si revera Deum quaeril 1 , that is the 
characteristic of the Benedictine vocation. St. Benedict only 
writes his Rule for those who seek obedience that they may 
find God : Ad te ergo nunc mihi sermo dirigilur quisquis 
abrcnuntians propriis voluntalibus... obedientiae... arma 
sumis 2 . 

. In instituting monasticism, the great Patriarch did not 
intend to create an Order exclusively destined to attain such 
or such a particular end, or to accomplish such or such a 
special work. He wished only to make perfect Christians of 
his monks and envisaged for them the plenitude of Christia- 
nity. Doubtless, as we have seen, it has befallen that in the 
course of ages, monasteries have become centres of civilisa- 
tion, by preaching, the clearing and cultivation of land, 
teaching, art, literary work, but this was but the outward 
blossoming, the natural and normal outcome of the fulness 
of Christianity with which these monasteries were inwardly 
animated. Being vowed to God, the monks spent them- 
selves in the service of the Church, and under every form 
that this service demanded. But what they sought before 
all, was to give to God, for love of Him, the homage of all 
their being in obedience to an Abbot, as Christ, in coming 
into this world, only sought His Father’s will, leaving to 
His Father the determination of this will : Ecce venio : ut 
faciam Dens volunlatem tuam 3 . 

1. Rule, ch. lvjii. — 2. Prologue of the Rule. — 3 * Hebr. x, 7. 



260 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

How is this will determined for the monk ? By the Rule 
and the Abbot. It is for the Abbot, inspired by the Rule 
and respecting its traditions, to fix the direction of the acti- 
vity of the monastery. Having, moreover, according to our 
Holy Father's saying, to govern the monastery " wisely, ” 
he will undoubtedly be watchful to see how he may utilise, 
for God’s glory and the benefit of the Church and society, 
the talents placed by God in each of his monks. But as for 
the monk himself, he has nothing to arrange or determine in 
all this : he does not come to the Abbey to give himself to 
one occupation rather than another, to discharge such or 
such a function that he finds suitable; he comes to seek 
God in obedience. In this lies all his perfection 1 . 

IV. 


You may perhaps say : Is not this inconceivable nonsense ? 
Is it not folly to submit oneself entirely in this way ? Yes, 
from the merely human point of view it is folly, as monastic 
life taken as a whole is folly : Vitim illorum aestimabamus 
insaniam 2 . 

But, replies St. Paul in his energetic language “ the sen- 
sual man, ” that is to say one who lets himself be guided by 
nothing but natural reason, " perceiveth not these things 
that are of the Spirit of God 3 . " What is foolishness in the 
eyes of men is wisdom in the sight of God, and what is wisdom 
in the world’s sight is foolishness before the Lord. And it 
has pleased God to confound the wisdom of the world with 
works of divine folly 4 . For the wise of this world, was it not 
a folly and a scandal — the Greek philosophers of St. Paul’s 
time already judged it to be so — for a God to have been 
made man in order to redeem mankind and for thirty years 
to have lived a life of obedience in an obscure workshop, 
and have then consecrated three years to the labour of 
preaching before dying upon a cross ? This was, however, 
the means chosen out of all others, by God, Eternal Wisdom, 
for the salvation of the human race. And this loving obe- 
dience which was the mainspring of this life — a life which 
closed as it had opened with a cry of obedience — had as 
its object an existence full of toil, of deep humiliation, and 
a death surrounded with indescribable sufferings. But it 
was by this that the world was redeemed ; it is still thanks 
to this that the world continues to be saved, that souls 


s. 


i. Cf. D. 
Sap. v, 4 


G, 


Morin, The Ideal of the Momstic Life. Ch. n, Obedience. — 
3. I Cor. xi, 14. — 4. Of. Ibid. :, 20-21. 


BONUM OBEDIENT I.AE 


261 



return to God and are sanctified. God derives His glory 
from our submission to the Crucified ; and it is by means of 
this submission that He gives us His grace : Scientes per hanc 
obedientiae vicim se ituros ad Deum. 

We can therefore understand why our holy Lawgiver calls 
obedience " a good Bonum obedientiae l . What a remark- 
able expression ! Does this mean we naturally like to obey ? 
No, quite the contrary ! Then why is obedience " a good, " 
a thing that we ought to seek and hunger after ? Because 
it is the path by which a God has passed, a path which 
leads us to beatitude. Obedience gives us God. When we 
do God’s will, we are united to God ; by obedience we 
embrace the Divine will ; this will is God manifesting Himself 
to us as Sovereign Master, received by us with adoration 
and love. And as we come to the monastery to seek God 
and obedience gives Him to us, it becomes for us a precious 
good, for it gains us the sole Good 2 . 

Thus our Holy Father strives, by his precepts or exhor- 
tations, to procure this good for us as abundantly as possible. 
He wishes us to go so far as “ to obey one another 3 , ” that 
s of course, if the orders of superiors are not in question. 
He asks that the monk should obey even in undertaking 
what is ” hard and impossible 4 . ” He reminds us that we 
are not authorised to do anything without the command of 
the Abbot or of those delegated by him 5 ; even good works 
and mortifications are of no worth for one who performs 
them unknown to the Abbot 0 . 

Why so much insistence ? Because the great Legislator 
is convinced that it is by the path of obedience we shall 
arrive at holiness. When the monk obeys in all things, for 
love of God and in union with Christ Jesus, Pro Dei amove, 
imiians Dominion 7 , he reaches the summit of perfection, 
for, as we have shown, there are no longer any obstacles 
opposed to the Divine action for a soul unreservedly given 
up to obedience ; this soul is entirely open to the influence 
of grace. God, Who is the Fountainhead of all ho.iness, can 
act within it according to the plenitude, of His power . 
Christ reigns in it undisputedly. He is the Sovereign 
Master of all the life and activity of the soul. Then perfect 
union results, filled with divine communications : Dominus 
re git me et nihil mihi deerit 9 . 


1. Rule, ch. ucxi. — a. See in the Dialogue tot S l Catherine of Siena, (Obr- 
diance, ch. x) in what an infinite measure obedience is a K ooa ' ?• * 

ch. lxxi. - 4. Ibid. ch. lxviii. - 5. Ibid. ch. lxxi. 

— 7. Ibid, chi vii. — 8, See an extract from the writings of S Teresa at the 


end of this conference* — 9. Ps. xxn, x» 


262 


263 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 


And where a spiritual good is concerned, of what 
consequence is it whether it is found in doing one action 
rather than another ? In the eyes of our holy Legislator, 
whether it be a question of a mission of confidence which 
places us in full view, or an obscure action known to God 
alone, what does it signify ? It is the matter upon which 
obedience is exteriorly exercised ; the essential is the virtue, 
the homage ve pay to God by our submission. For — 
although there are evidently manifold degrees of intrinsic 
value among various actions, resulting from their very nature 
and their more or less direct relation with God’s glory, — as 
regards our personal perfection and our own advancement in 
the way of holiness, the merit of an action is measured, at the 
last analysis, by the degree of love wherein our obedience is 
enveloped. Look at our Divine Saviour. Were those thirty 
hidden years He spent at Nazareth less pleasing to His Father 
and less fruitful for the world’s salvation than the three 
years of His public life consecrated by preaching ? We 
should not dare to uphold such an opinion. It was in 
obedience to His Father that Our Lord willed to remain 
thus hidden so many years, and this obedience was the 
obedience of a God. 

Proportionately it is the same for us, since Christ is our 
Model. True wisdom, that which is the gift of the Spirit, 
is to obey, to render to God the homage of our obedience, 
whatever be the material work which is the object of this 
obedience and whereby it is manifested. For this reason 
our Holy Father says that true monks, those illumined 
with divine light, are only ambitious for eternal things, the 
things which alone are real : Qnibus ad vilam aeternam 
gradiendi amor incnmbit 1 . They “ desire ” — remark the 
word ; St. Benedict does not say : “ support, ” — obedience, 
as one seeks after a precious good that one may take pos- 
session of it. Abbatem sibi praeesse desiderant 2 ; they 
are upon the watch for occasions of obeying, and are thus 
enabled to give to God the most effectual pledge of their 
love 3 . 

V. 

Such is the lofty concept that St. Benedict forms of obe- 

v. e ’ c i^' , V ‘. — 2 - Ibid- — 3- We at once see how obedience, as understood 

. -Benedict, is permeated with religion, and is, like humility, an eminently 
religious virtue. Cf. above p. 223. " One who is truly obeaient, " said the 
litemal father to Catherine, ' ever retains the desire of submission; 
contimially and unremittingly, this desire is like an inward refrain oi music. M 
Dialogue. 


dience. Now we have promised to follow his Rule that we 
may live according to his spirit. It is this view of the matter 
we must admit and put into practice in as far as we are able, 
because it is for us the path of perfection. In order to bring 
us to holiness, our Blessed Father does not require of us 
constantly repeated exercises whereby all our defects are 
attacked one by one, or great corporal macerations, or rigo- 
rous and continual mortifications ; no, in this respect he is 
very discreet and full of moderation : Nihil asperum, nihil 
grave 1 . St. Gregory remarks that his Rule is of "admirable 
discretion 2 . ’’ But the holy Legislator has especially in 
view — and in this he goes as far as possible to the root of 
the matter 3 — to despoil a man of all that is an obstacle 
within him to grace and the Divine action ; for this reason 
absolute detachment is required of him, by means of poverty 
and humility, the latter being chiefly manifested by perfect 
obedience. These virtues despoil the soul of all attachment 

to self and creatures, so that all liberty and plenitude may be 

left to the action of God. This is one of the salient charac- 
teristics of St. Benedict’s asceticism. Without underrating, 
as we have seen, the value of personal practices of mortifi- 
cation in setting us free from vices that we may go to God, 
he insists above all upon poverty, humility and chiefly 
upon obedience. Full submission to the Superior and to the 
Rule is for the monk the way that leads most surely to God, 
because a like humble and constant submission in all things, 
such as our Holy Father requires, closes every outlet to bad 
habits and opposes them till in the end they are destroyed. 
Perfect obedience is the most authentic means for the monk 
of purifying himself to the innermost depths of his being. 
A monk who obeys perfectly, in the spirit indicated by the 


I. Prologue of the Rule. — 2. Dialog, lib. H, c. XXXVI ; ^ ^ 
carefulness never to go to extremes and to t2 *i 0 acc °, , l n ( t ,^A. t; to mon i !S 

characterises the Holy Rule, nevertheless when S' Bcneict dictates to mon 

their duty of obedience, he shows himself categorical and i reculations 

to seek for any compromise from him on this point. How far ‘he regulations 
are to be tempered in special cases, S' Benedict leaves to _ xhis 

the Superior alone ; it is for the monk to obey and not touch with the 
categorical manner of conceiving obedience... brings r j l lt Essay on the 
cenobitical sense of S' Benedict’s asce icism. D. I. Ryelandt. Essay 
character or the moral physiognomy oi S' B«ird»d accord' >g ch as 

Revue liiurgique el monastique, 1921, P- 203. “ fibres of 

is prescribed bv the Rule of S' Benedict, penetrates to the deepest hmes o 
the soul and sets itself to destroy the very root of self-love and self juagm ^ 
this appears to be indeed the maximum of psycbidogica p ma y j, e said 
M. FestugiiSre. See Revue Benedictine. 191=, P- 49'; J^her nrogress as to 
that the concept of religious obedience has made no f cn ouch, in order 
the substance of the matter since S l Benedict s -time. It P degrees of 

to be convinced of this, to read the chapters v vn (3 r4 and 4 degrees or 

humility), xxxin, lvxii, lxviii, lxxi, etc. of the KUie. 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



264 


.Rule, will quickly arrive at complete freedom from every 
trammel which holds him back from God. At the same time, 
he advances in virtue which, becoming stronger, renders 
him more pliant under the Holy Spirit’s action. Now was 
it not this we came to seek in the monastery ? In this way 
all the other, virtues hence increase, and progress towards 
Divine union is assured L 


Obedience is then for the monk the surest way to holiness. 
St. Teresa calls it “ the road that leads most rapidly to the 
summit of perfection ; ” " the most prompt and also the 
most effectual means of arriving at perfection 2 . ’’ When a 
man achieves the work of giving himself entirely by obedience, 
he receives the Infinite Good in an incomparable measure. 
This is what Christ Jesus said to that perfect nun who was 
so dear to Him — St. Gertrude. On the evening of Palm 
Sunday she was meditating on the reception given to Jesus 
by His friends at Bethany, whither He had withdrawn in 
the evening, and the desire burnt within her to offer hospita- 
lity to Him in her heart. Immediately Christ appeared to 
her : “I am here, ” He said to the saint, “ and what wilt 
thou give Me ? ” " Welcome, Salvation of my soul, my one 
and only treasure, ” replied Gertrude ; “ alas 1 I have pre- 
pared nothing that can befit Thy magnificence, but I offer 
Thee all my being, desiring that Thou wilt Thyself prepare 
in me what shall best please Thy Heart. ” “ Since 

thou givest Me the liberty, ” Christ said, “ I will take it ; 
but I need the key that My hand may find and may dispose 
of all that I wish. " " What is this key of which Thou hast 

need and that must be given to Thee ? ” the saint asked. 
“ It is thy self-will, ” replied our Lord 3 . Hence the Saint 
understood that Christ finds His delight in a soul wholly 
yielded up to Him, and keeping nothing back : it is by perfect 
obedience that one gives to Christ the key that He demands. 
He then knows Himself to be the Master of this soul because 
He holds the citadel which is its liberty 4 . He can do all 


S Meqh tilde "one day saw a train of virtues personified by virgins 
standing before God. One among them, more beautiful than her sisters, 
ncla a golden cup into which the other virgins poured a fragrant wine which 
ct of * er ®d> kneeling, to the Lora. Astonished at this sight, 

o Mcchtilde was desirous of knowing its meaning when our Lord said to 
her: This virgin is obedience; she alone gives Me to drink, for obedience 
contains withm herself the riches of the other virtues : one who is truly obe- 
dient must necessarily possess the whole of these virtues ’ Our Lord then 
enumerated the different virtues, showing how they are necessarily to be 
lound w the perfectly obedient soul. The Book of Special Grace, i*' Part., 
k 3 5 ‘ 2. Foundations, ch. 5. — 3. The Herald of Divine Love , Book IV, 

cn. xxm. 4. God spoke in similar terms to S‘ Catherine of Siena : " I have 
made obedience the key of the , whole edifice in very deed.'* Life by 
Kaymund of Capua. , 






that He wills ; and as He desires nothing so much as our 
holiness, a soul thus given and who never takes back anything 
from this gift, is upon the most sure path of perfection. 

You see how right our Holy Father is to insist so much 
upon this virtue : let us try to understand thoroughly the 
character he wishes to give to it. Obedience is a homage 
of perfect submission of all our being to God ; it is a good 
which we must unceasingly strive to obtain, for in it we shall 
find what we came to seek in the monastery, namely, God. 
If we never lose sight of this capital point, our obedience 
will become easy, whatever be the command given ; and, 
through it, we shall obtain, with God, peace of soul and joy 
and freedom of heart. 


VI. 


However, in order that obedience may thus become for 
the monk the channel of Divine . grace, it must be invested 
with certain qualities. Our Holy Father evinces a real 
complacency in detailing them, so much predilection has 
he for this virtue. What then are these qualities ? There 
are three principal ones from whence all the others 
flow : the obedience of the monk must be supernatural, 
trustful, and it must spring from love. It will then be a 
putting into practice of the three theological virtues of faith, 
hope and charity. As you see, we are especially speaking 
of inward qualities ; for obedience, like humility from winch 
it is derived, resides essentially in the soul. When we have 
analysed the conditions of the inWard exercise of this virtue, 
we shall pass on naturally to its outward practice and note 
the qualities that accompany the material execution of the 
work commanded. 


The first quality of our obedience is to be supernatural, 
that is to say accomplished in a spirit of faith : a man obeys 
the Superior as if obeying God Himself. ... 

Our holy Legislator dwells much on this point, and wit 
reason, for it is of capital importance. He tells us tha 
Abbot represents Christ : [A bbas ] Chrisli emm a S^ re 
monasterio creditur 1 . Note this last word : credttur, w 
specifies that faith is the root of submission. The P ro P. 
tude of obedience should, in the eyes of St. Benedict, oe 
ed from this spirit of faith. We must obey, he says, without 
delay ” : sine mora*; and " as if the order came from God 

i. Rule, ch. 11. — 2. Ibid. ch. v. 





266 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


:i|i; Himself ” : Ac si divinitus imperetur, moram fiati nesciunt in 

|!j' !' facicndo 1 . The order does, indeed, come from God, as the 

i words of Eternal Truth, which the great Patriarch 

p},: j immediately recalls, bear witness : "He that heareth you, 

heareth Me.” He would have us never forget that “the 
|ji;V:"|| obedience which is given to Superiors is given to God ” : 

j ilj/iip: Obedicntia quae majoribus praebetur, deo exitibeinr: ipse 

Pi;! iff.. enim dixit: qui vos audit me audit*. 

;■[!' l’j[ Hereby homage is paid to God, in the order of supernatural 

: j things that God has Himself chosen to establish here below 

|1j| I to bring us to Him. God’s ways are not our ways. We 

have more than once remarked that, especially since the 
Incarnation, God, in His relations with us, often acts through 
1|; men. This is to be seen in the Sacraments ; we can only 

! ii:' draw from them the graces they contain by having recourse 

J', |:|!.; to men appointed by Christ to confer them upon us. Again 

i : 1]/ this is to be seen in the love of our neighbour which is the 

j! |j; I sign of the reality of our love for God. It is the same with 

| j| jjf'j! obedience. This Divine economy constitutes as it were a 

ij'!| jipj prolongation of the Incarnation. Since God has united 

Hj i;!‘ Himself to humanity in the Person of His Son, it is through 

! : !j ; j the members of His Son that He ordinarUy enters into 

Ml | communication with our souls. Such being the Divine Plan, 

ijj we shall walk in all security in the way of salvation and per- 

I j i , fection if we adapt ourselves to it ; to go aside from it is to 

!| ?: withdraw ourselves from grace. 

; i i Why does God thus cause men to take His place with us ? 

i; j In order that our obedience inspired by faith may be a hom- 

I ! ; | j ; age rendered to His Divine Son and may beget our merit. 

Mi | [ If God were to appear to us in all the glory of His power, 

j : |j where would be our merit in obeying Him ? God wills then 

j ; that we should adore Him not only in Himself, not only in 

;i ! j the Humanity of His Son Jesus, but also in the men whom 

ii', He has chosen to direct us. Doubtless it would be infinitely 

■ j | more agreeable for us if God were Himself to reveal what He 

‘ ! desires of us in everything, or if He were to appoint an angel 

i | to do so/ But what would be the result of this ? Most 

\ S often, an extraordinary increase of self-love, — or, in case 

! of our refusal, a more evident culpability. God has not 

i I chosen to act thus. The means He has taken to imprint His 

j; ,j initiative on our life is that which St. Benedict recalls to us 

j I; in citing these words of the Psalmist, Imposuisii homines 

\ j i super capita nostra 3 , “ Thou hast set men over our heads, ” 

?! men like to us, " men who are mortal frail, infirm" and 

; 1 1 | 1 ‘ Rule, ch. v. — 2. Ibid. — 3. Ibid. ch. vn j Ps. lxv, 12. 


BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 


267 

jeling their powerlessness : Homines mortales, fraglles, 
infirmi, lutea vasa portantes 1 . This is vexatious and painful 
to nature, but such is the way of Divine wisdom. Why, 
once again, has God chosen these means, so humiliating for 
us ? — ■ • for it is a humiliation to our pride and our 
spirit of independence to be subjected to another man, who 
is not without imperfections, every man belying his own 
ideal : Omnis homo mendax 2 . Why ? — God has thus 
decided thereby to exercise our faith, our hope, our love. 


Our faith first of all. You know it is befitting that the 
free creature should not enter into participation of infinite 
good without first undergoing the trial on which his merit 
is to rest. As for us, faith forms our trial : to live in the 
obscurity of a practical and active faith, such is the homage 
that God requires of us. Obedience gives us the opportunity 
of showing God our faith in Him : obedience is the practical 
manifestation of this faith. Indeed great faith,perfect faith, 
is needed, to maintain constant obedience to a man who, 
it is true, represents God but does so while still keeping 
his own imperfections. And this is the source of deep virtue 
and great merit. * 

One day when our own St. Gertrude besought Our Lord 
that He would Himself correct certain faults, alas ! too 
apparent, in one of her superiors, Christ replied to her : 
" Do you not know that not only this person, but all who 
are in charge of this beloved congregation, have some defects? 
No one in this life is altogether free from imperfection. 
This is an effect of My goodness, and I allow it in order that 
the merit of all may be increased. There is far more virtue 
in submitting to a person whose faults are evident than to 
one who appears perfect 3 . " 

When we look upon the Sacred Host, our senses cry out 
to us: “That is not Christ: only bread is there.” We 
see, we touch, we taste bread. But Christ has told us : 
Hoc est corpus tnetnn 4 , “ This is My Body. ” Then, we put 
aside all the testimonies of the senses and we say to Christ : 
" Thou hast said it, and I believe, Credo ; ” and to manifest 
our faith we fall down upon our knees before Christ, really 
and substantially present under these appearances ; we adore 
Him, we give ourselves up to Him to do His will. 

In the same way 5 , Christ veils Himself in our superiors. 


1 . S. Augustin. Sermo lxix, c. i. P- L. 38 , 44°. *■ cxv > J 1- M 

D. G. Dolan. S‘ Gertrude the Great, ch. v. — 4- Matth. xxvi 26 . — 5. 
This “ in the same way ’* evidently implies only a simple analogy. 


268 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK • 

The Abbot, despite his imperfections, represents Christ for 
us. St. Benedict is formal upon this point. Christ is hidden 
under the imperfections and weaknesses of the man, as He 
is hidden under the sacramental appearances. But the Supe- 
rior is placed super candelabrum x . By reason of our habitual 
contact with him, we naturally see his deficiencies and 
limitations, and then we are tempted to cry : “ This man 
is not Christ ; his judgment, limited as it is, is not infallible, 
he can be mistaken, he is mistaken ; he cannot understand 
my point of view ; he allows himself to be biassed. ” But 
faith says again : Abbas Christi agere vices credilur; whether 
Christ gives us, as His representative, a man ■with the wisdom 
of a Solomon, or a man without talent, it is', for faith, 
always Christ Who is represented. Faith discovers and 
touches Christ beneath the imperfections of the man.. And 
then, if I have this faith, I say : Credo : " I believe ; ” and ' 
I obey this man whomsoever he be, because in submitting 
myself to him, I submit myself to Christ and remain united 
to Him : Qui vos audit me audit 2 . 

Always thus to see Christ in the Superior, then, even if 
this Superior shows himself to us with all his failings, ever 
to obey him unfalteringly whatever be the circumstances, 
this requires of us very strong faith : because to be led 
always by this supernatural obedience without ever wavering 
is very hard and mortifying for nature. 

But it is certain, with a certainty that I do not fear to 
to call divine, that the Lord cannot fail one who obeys in 
this spirit of faith and is happy to offer Him the sacrifice 
of his abnegation. On the day of our monastic profession 
we make a contract with God. We say to Him : “ My God, 

I have come here to seek Thee ; for love of Thee, I have 
left all things ; I come to lay at Thy feet my independence, 
my liberty ; I promise Thee to submit myself to a superior, 
to obey him in everything, however contrary to my tastes 
and ideas his command may appear to me. ” And God 
says to us on His side : " I promise you, despite the weaknes- 
ses or even the errors of the one who represents Me towards 
you, to direct you at each step of your life, and to bring you, 
through him, to the one thing necessary that you seek : 

— perfect love and the most intimate union with Me. ” 

If we observe our part of the contract, it is absolutely 
beyond doubt that God will observe His part : He has 
en g a ged Himself to it, and His word is the word of a God : 
Fidelis Deus 3 . To think the contrary would be to deny 

I. Matth. v, 15. — 2. Luo, x, 16, — 3. I Cor. x, 9, 


BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 269 

the Veracity, the Wisdom, the Goodness, and the Power of 
God, it would be as much as to deny God Himself 1 . 

VII. 

Our Holy Father, enlightened with the rays of divine light, 
is so convinced of the efficacy of this means of bringing us 
to perfection that, in obedience, he even requires of us 
" to follow the judgment and orders of another : " Non suo 
arbitrio viventes, vel desideriis suis el voluptatibus obedientes 
sed ambulantes alieno judicio et imperio a . There is 
need to insist here, for sometimes we come across upright, 
but simple minds that form an inexact idea of obedience. 
They believe that the Superior can never be mistaken. 
This is an error. Every man is fallible ; — and the merit 
of our obedience consists precisely in placing our initiative 
in the hands of a man whom we know to be fallible. 

It may happen that the Abbot does not think as we do. 
If he always thought like us, where would be the submission 
of our judgment ? We should be convinced that the Superior 
is very sensible,... because he had the same ideas that we 
have ! To obey, because we find what is ordered us is reason- 
able, is not obeying, but following our own judgment. 

Does this mean that we must give up our judgment so far 
as to make all the judgments of the Abbot our own ? No. 
We cannot abdicate the light of our reason. Only, the 
Superior is already, humanly speaking, much better placed 
than his inferiors for judging because of his knowledge of the 
case ; moreover, for taking his decisions he possesses not 
only the elements that escape us, but also the lights that are 
wanting to us : the graces of state are not a myth. Let us 
suppose, however, that our reason evidently shows us things 
under an altogether different light and point of view from 
those under which the Superior sees them : we can then 
humbly expose to him our manner of looking at them , 
St. Benedict whose supernatural spirit is tempered by such 
just good sense does not fail to suggest this to us 3 . But if 
the Superior maintains his order, ought we, in order o 
realise the perfection of obedience, theoretically to see things 
as the Abbot sees them ? No, that is not required. What 
must be done then ? We may continue to see the thing 
speculatively under a different light from that under which 
the Abbot sees it ; we may theoretically believe that our view 

1. See text of S* Teresa at the end of this conference. — 2. Rule, ch. V, 
— 3 . Ibid. ch. lxviii. 



270 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

is better and more reasonable than what is commanded us. 
But we must obey perfectly in action, in the execution of 
what we are told to do ; we must besides be intimately per- 
suaded that in the present case, in concreto, no spiritual 
harm will result from our obedience, either for the Divine 
glory nor for our own soul, but only good will come from 
it. It is this intimate persuasion that is necessary to obe- 
dience of judgment 1 . 

Now, this persuasion is born of faith. Again, is it that 
the Abbot is infallible or possesses infused knowledge ? 
Assuredly not. The graces of state which he has the right 
to expect from God do not go so far as to accord him this 
privilege. He can be mistaken, he is in fact mistaken at 
times ; but the one who is never mistaken is he who obeys : 
for him the path is certainly straight that leads to God. 
And if the spiritual good which results for him and for his 
personal perfection from his obedience appears to him to 
be less than it would have been if the Abbot had not been 
in error, this is only in appearance. Real harm cannot be 
done to his soul, for he gives an extremely pleasing homage 
to God. It is as if he said : " My God, Thou art so wise 
and so powerful, fortiter et suaviter disponens omnia 2 , and I 
am so convinced of Thy Divine attributes, that I affirm Thy 
power of drawing my soul to Thee, in spite of the errors 
that can creep in at times in the orders of my Superior. ” 
It is incontestable, indeed, that God leads us to His love 
through the very errors of men. He would intervene in a 
special way rather than allow His glory or our soul to suffer 
real spiritual harm in the case we have been considering, 

In the course of our spiritual life, God will sometimes 
permit the Superior to command us things that appear to 
us unreasonable or not quite prudent, or less good than those 
we could imagine : He will thus give us the opportunity of 
rendering Him this very pleasing homage of obedience of 
judgment, and of hence renewing the tradition which we 
made to Him of our whole being on the dav of our profession. 
At that blessed hour, in all the gladness of our donation, 
obedience appeared to us like child’s play, although we had 
been forewarned of things, " hard and rugged ”, Dura et 
aspera 3 , whereby we go towards God. At that moment 


'■Upon this subject we make our own the sentiments at once most safe and 
most moderate of one of the best modern ascetical writers, Mgr.Hedley, Bishop 
ol Newport, in his excellent Retreat. See also the remarkable reilections 
expressed by Abbot Delatte in his Commentary on the Rule ot S' Benedict. — 
a. Cf. Sap. vni, i. — 3. Rule, ch. lviii. 


BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 


271 


1 


1 

i 

i 

1 



we pronounced the vow ; but we were only entering on the 
path of the virtue. 

This virtue is only acquired and strengthened by corres- 
ponding acts. Now, in the measure that we advance in 
maturity of mind or are inclined to take more initiative, 
we realise the more the truth of these words of the Psalmist 
recalled by our Holy Father : “ Thou hast placed men over 
our heads ” : Imposuisti homines super capita nostra. Our 
holy Legislator gives us moreover to understand that obe- 
dience can become very hard to nature ; in his fourth degree 
of humility he speaks of *' hard and contrary things, even 
injuries 1 , " which may befall us in the course of obedience : 
he warns us that “ narrow is the way, ” but he adds — 
" which leadeth unto life " : ducit ad vitam 2 . If indeed we 
submit with faith we may be assured, as St. Benedict guaran- 
tees, that each of our acts done under these difficult circum- 
stances will turn to good, and our virtue will go on strengthen- 
ing : Sciat junior ita sibi expedire 3 . God’s glory triumphs 
precisely in using men’s frailty and errors for the good of 
those who trust in Him : Omnia cooper antur in bonum i . 

Our holy Father’s words should then be ever before our 
eyes : Abbas Christi agere vices creditur. The more we see 
Christ in the Abbot, the more we enter into this life of faith, 
the more too will the Abbot become for us a " cause of 
eternal salvation " and of perfection : Factus cst obtemper anti- 
bus sibi causa salttiis aeternae B . 

There is yet more. The man who yields himself up by a 
like obedience into God’s hands can be compared to an 
arrow of election, shot by the hand of a mighty archer : 
Sicut sagitta in tnantt potentis *. The soul that possesses this 
supernatural suppleness of obedience is capable of great 
things, because if it can count upon God, God can count 
upon and be sure of it ; and very often, God uses these 
souls for work wherein His glory is particularly at stake. 
But He uses them through obedience, in order to preserve 


1. Rule, ch. VII. — 2. Ibid. ch. v. — 3. Ibid. ch. lira. — 4 - 

28. “ As experience shows so often, compulsion is best for the mdi id 

and for the attainment of an object desired. Looking back on the years 
that have gone by, I can testify from personal observation that , so ^ n ® ® . . 

I was obliged by authority to take, against what in my _own judg™ 
the time I held to have been a better way, has proved m the event to 
been right. Even what I regarded as failures have under obedience had 
results which I afterwards came to acknowledge as distinctly P'O^mcnba.. 

. ...The real danger of failure comes when in moments of weakness or c - 
dice we try to withdraw ourselves directly or indirectly from tjieyo 
authority. Spiritual writers arc unanimous in condemning as penlous m tn 
extreme, from a spiritual point of view, an attitude even 9 rsyyive opp 
to constituted authority. " Cardinal A. Gasquet, Rehgio Religion, ch. xii. 
The Yoke ■ of Obedience. — 5. Hcbr. v, 9. — Ps. cxxvi, 4. 



272 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

them in humility. However high be the aim, the fully 
obedient soul reaches it ; however arduous be the work 
it accomplishes it to perfection, for the strong God is with 
this soul which has at its disposition the very power of God. 

We are therefore not surprised at the prodigies performed 
by those who, forgetting themselves and stripped of self, 
are invested by obedience with power from on high. A very 
remarkable example of this is given in the well-known 
episode recounted in the Dialogues of St. Gregory. The 
young Placid having fallen into the Lake of Subiaco, St. Be- 
nedict orders his disciple Maurus to go and pull the child out 
of the water, and St. Maurus, in the promptitude of his 
obedience, walks on the water, and brings back St. Placid 
safe and sound. 

It is this faith alone that can assure the security of 
our monastic life. As long as we see Christ in the Superior, 
we shallparticipate, like St. Peter walking upon the waves 1 , 
m the Divine immunity; as soon as the breath of doubt 
touches our heart, we shall sink. The soul who obevs in 
laith in God’s word is not supported solely by natural 
strength . Hi m curribus el hi in eqnis ; it has the right of 
counting upon the very power of God : Nos autcm in nomine 
Domini 2 . 


Do not be astonished in that I have insisted so much upon 
e part that faith holds in religious obedience. It is a 
° s ^portant part. Faith makes our obedience safe arid 
frult f ulness ; it also makes its greatness. 
w ^ wor ld sometimes reproach us religious for 

being characterless, servile or small-minded in face of autho- 
nf Z* ; ? world is always ready to throw stones, and very 
f f e L ] n S Whe i! e ? lght its ? lf be found at : we need 
is to Ha °*± tbe .' vor l ( l lu order to be aware how often 

it rLrnf^ nd m lts TT mi<ist that Wa nt of character with which 
we a P re arrffc however is it always without reason that 
reDroarh rr>' hi ° us confess that unhappily the 

do not spp rltl n °i be c un( kserved in regard to those who 
debasinp- fn m Superior. There is in fact something 
aDnear^riprnf ^ t0 ° bey another man, when the latter 
detrree rlivim/^Iif ™* an ’ not as representing, in some 
have the uthority. To obey the Abbot because we 

we feel for him 1 ^ Same tastes as he has, because 

talents that wp a A aatu /' a sympathy, because he possesses 
mire, because we find his orders are reason- 

i. Matth. XIV, 20. — 2 p, o c , _ ... . 

comes back upon this point ia heaUng of obedience . 110 ° na fcequently 


BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 


273 


r 

! 


able, is unworthy of us and apart from the virtue of obe- 
dience. It is possible, in these cases, always to accomplish 
materially what is commanded us by the Abbot, and yet never 
to make a formal act of veritable obedience L 

None of these natural motives ought ever to affect us. 
Why so ? Because as soon as we place ourselves on the 
natural plane, one man is worth as much as another, and 
the dignity of man commands him not to submit to another 
creature, considered as such ; to do so would be to lessen 
and abase himself. Never would I obey a man, were this 
man a dazzling genius, if he had not received a participation 
in the Divine authority, in’ order to command me. But 
as soon as God says : Such or such a man represents Me; ” 

were this man without talents, had he all the most crying 
natural defects, did this man belong to an altogether inferior 
race, I would yield myself to him, — as long as he ordered 
me nothing evidently contrary to the Divine Law ; in this 
latter case, he would no longer represent God. 

To obey thus is to raise oneself, for it is to acknowledge, 
in order to bow down before it, but a single authority, that 
before which all nations ought to lose themselves in adoration 
— the authority of God. To serve God is to reign : to serve 
God thus is to rise above all human considerations, above 
natural contingencies even as far as the Supreme andSove- 
reign Being, even as far as God ; that is truly to be free, 
to be strong, to be great, for one is not the slave of any 
creature, however high he may be : Servire Deo regnare est 
But it is only faith, an intense, ardent faith, that can raise 
us to this level, and, above all, keep us there. 

Does this mean that we must not love the Superior ? Quite 
the contrary. Among the counsels that our Holy Father 
gives to the Abbot, is that " he should study to inspire love 
rather than fear ” : Student plus amari quam timeri 3 ; to the 
monks, he gives the precept to " love their Abbot with sincere 
and humble affection ” : Abbatem suum sincera et hunnli 


1. "A religious may obey through mere habit, by routinc > *° r ^ , ' , 
ot a quiet life, or through mere slavishness of disposition : sueh a one 
an outwardly obedient life ; but he is not obedient. Much less is ^at rehgious 
obedient who obeys to tile eye, but rebels inwardly. Bishop Hedley. >. 

ch. XIX. Obedience. — 2. Roman Pontifical, ordination of sub-deacons , this 
expression is found in a letter attributed to S* Leo [ad Dcmitnadem] \ V. ■ _ 55 , 
165. We see how the reproach of servility^ falls to the ground a g. 
the obedient religious. Far. more than this. The spint of * al p. 
nnimates this religious is the only moral force that delivers man 
servility in face of any superior whomsoever, — magistrate, military 
chief, prince — and it contains the secret of true human dignity.^ 0 
Catholic is at once the most obedient and the least servile oi me . 3* 

Rule, ch. lxiv. 






274 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

caritate diligant 1 . But this love itself must already be of 
the supernatural order ; this love should certainly be 
manifested by obedience, but obedience ought not to have 
as its motive power an affection that remains purely in the 
natural order. It is an obedience of faith that our holy 
Lawgiver requires of us : the commands of the Superior 
must be carried out " as if they came from God Himself ” : 
Ac si divinitus imperelur 2 . If this is a living faith, it will 
render obedience easy ; whatever be the order enjoined, it 
will make us find God : that is the best recompense. 

VIII. 


Bom of faith, religious obedience is sustained by hope. 
We have indeed already touched on this subject so need 
not enlarge upon it, since, in a soul where faith is perfect, hope 
necessarily flourishes. We will therefore only say a little 
about this. What is the r61e of hope in the exercise of 
obedience ? To render us full of confidence in God's help, 
especially in triumphing over the obstacles and difficulties 
that may be foreseen and encountered in the execution of 
the task commanded. God cannot leave to itself a soul 
that confides wholly in His grace. Look at Moses on Mount 
Horeb.. The Lord appeared to him and entrusted him with 
delivering the children of Israel held in Egyptian bondage : 
" Come, and I will send thee to Pharaoh, that thou mayst 
bring forth My people. " Moses is alarmed by the greatness 
of this mission : “ Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, 
and should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt ? " 
And God answers : Egoero tecum: " I will be with thee 3 . ” 
Henceforth intrepid, Moses went to the court of the Pharaohs 
and you know the prodigies that God wrought by his hands 
to deliver the Hebrews. Ego ero tecum: we often read 
these words in the lives of the Saints. Our Lord frequently 
repeated them to St. Catherine of Siena 4 and the Blessed 
Bonomo c , when He gave them commands : " Have no 
fear, " said He to the latter, “ I shall be with thee. ” He 
repeats these words to all of us, when obedience commands 
us to do hard or impossible things : Noli timere quia, ego 
tecum sum e . 


He gives us, with confidence, that virtue of patience 
without which obedience is not perfect. “ The sign that 
thou hast this virtue of obedience, ” said the Heavenly 

<*. lxjcii. _ 2 . Ibid. Oh. V. - 3 . Exod. m, 12. - 4. Life, by 
R^mmid of Capua. —5 Une exlatique au XV 111 • siicle. La Bicnheurcuse 
Gen mi 2™°' mm ' ale Unedutine, by D. du Bourg, p. 81-S2, 141. — 6. 


BONUM OBEDIENT I AE 


275 


i 


Father to St. Catherine, " is patience ; impatience makes 
known that thou hast it not... Disobedience has a sister 
given to her by self-love and this is impatience... Patience 
and obedience are inseparable ; whoever is not patient 
has, by this very fact, the proof that obedience does not 
dwell in his heart 1 . ” 

Obedience quickened by supernatural confidence, infallibly 
draws down help from on high. St. Benedict is explicit on 
this point : when the Abbot commands us to do things 
difficult or impossible, the order must first of all be accepted. 
Then if we see that the burden altogether exceeds our strength 
we must make known, patiently and at the seasonable 
moment, the reasons of our incapacity, showing neither pride, 
resistance, nor contradiction. If having listened to these 
representations, the Abbot still persists in his way of thinking 
and maintains his command, the monk, says our Holy 
Father, will know that this command is advantageous for 
him and he will obey for love, confiding in God’s assistance : 
Ex caritate confidens de adjutorio Dei obediat 2 . 

This admirable sentence concludes this chapter so lofty, 
so firm and at the same time so full of discretion, devoted 
to obedience in " impossible ” things. 1 he hope that God 
will be with us ought to sustain us, because it is through 
love of Him ” that we obey. 

IX. 


The expression " through love ”, which we have just 
quoted, marks the last of the fundamental qualities, — an 
this especially in relation to the motive — of our obedience. 
Although he makes obedience the offspring of humility, 
and gives it faith as its first inspirer, you will however 
remark that the holy Patriarch always presents monastic 
obedience as an act of love : Ut quis pro dei amore 
obcdientia sc subdat majori 3 : it is for the love of Oo 
we submit to the Superior in all obedience. Certain 
written by St. Benedict upon obedience (Ch. v, vn, xviu, 
xxn) reveal a deep-lying tendency in his soul to act for ■ 
Within him burns as it were a restrained ent iu 
God, for Christ, for love itself. According to his ; way of 
thinking, obedience is not only an inmost disposi 
inclines the monk to execute every command wi £ P 
tude and devotedness because the moral order req 

1 . Dialogue, On Obedience. Ch. 1 and 11 . 2- Rule, ch. lxviii. 3 

ch. vn. 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



276 

the inferior shall submit to the superior ; the obedience of 
the monk is to be an exercise or a perpetual effort of love... 
Obedience thus becomes the expression of an habitual dis- 
position of unitive life by the conformity or perpetual 
communion of the human will with the Divine Will 1 11 

For, the Holy Lawgiver repeats to us that this virtue in 
its perfection is only to be found in those " who hold nothing 
dearer to them than Christ” : Haec convenit its qui nihil sibi 
a christo carius aliquid existimant 2 . St. Benedict wishes 
the monk’s obedience to be the expression, of love ; and he 
adds that in this above all we shall imitate Christ : pro dei 
amore omni obedientia se subdat majori, imitans dominum 
de quo dicit Apostolus: f actus obcdieus usque ad mortem 3 . 

The first act of the holy soul of Jesus in the Incarnation 
was to dart through the infinite space that separates the 
created from the divine. Resting in the Bosom of the 
Father, His soul contemplates face to face His adorable 
perfections. We cannot picture to ourselves that this con- 
templation could be, if I may so express myself, only specu- 
lative. Far from it. As the Word, Christ loves His Father, 
in very deed, with ari infinite love surpassing all compre- 
hension. But the Humanity of Jesus is drawn into this 
impetuous current of uncreated love and the Heart of Christ 
burns with the most perfect love that could ever exist. A 
member of the human race through His Incarnation, Christ 
falls moreover under the great precept : “ Thou shalt love 
the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole 
soul, and with thy whole mind,and with thy whole strength V 
Jesus has perfectly fulfilled this commandment. From His 
first entering into the world, He yielded Himself up through 
love : Ecce venio... Dens mens valid et legem tuam in medio 
cordis met 5 . I have placed, 0 Father, Thy law'. Thy will 
" in the midst of My Heart. ” His whole existence is summed 
up in love for the Father. But what form will this love take ? 
The form of obedience : Ul faciam Dens voluntalem tuam 6 . 
And why is this ? Because nothing better translates filial 
love than absolute submission 7 . Christ Jesus has manifested 

1. D. I. Ryelandt, l. c. p .209. — 2. Rule, ch.v. — 3. Ibid. ch. vn ; Philip. 

11, 8. — 4. Marc. Xu, 30. — 5. Ps. xxxix, 8-9. — 6. Hebr. x, 7.' — 7. The 
Eternal Father said to S l Catherine, " I wish thee to see . and know this most 
excellent virtue in that humble and immaculate Lamb, and the source 
whence it proceeds. What caused the. great obedience of the Word ? The 
love which He had for My honour and your salvation. Whence proceeded 
this love ? From the dear vision with which His soul saw the divine essence 
and the eternal Trinity, thus always looking on Me, the eternal God, His 
fidelity obtained this vision most perfectly for Him, which vision you im- 
perfectly enjoy by the light of holy faith. He was faithful to me, His Eternal 


BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 


277 

this perfect love and this full obedience from the moment 
of the Incarnation “ even to the death of the Cross ” : 
Usque ad mortem. 

Not only has He never for an instant hesitated to obey, 
but love draws Him, despite the sensible shrinking that He 
feels towards the consummation of His obedience : “ I have 
a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized : and how am I 
straitened until it be accomplished 1 ? ” It is with intense 
desire that He desires to eat the Pasch with His disciples 2 , 
that Pasch which is to inaugurate the Passion. If He deli- 
vers Himself up to death, it is that the world may know 
that He loves His Father : Ut cognoscal mundus quia diligo 
Patrem 3 . And this love is unutterable because this perfect 
obedience is the very food of His soul: Mens cibus est ut 
faciam volur.tatem ejus qui misit me, ut perficiam opus cjus *. 

A similar sense of love ought to inspire the monk m 
all his obedience ” : Ut quis pro Dei amore, omni obedientia 
se subdat majori. Our Lawgiver is very explicit upon this 
point. The obedience of the monk, enlightened by faith 
is to spring from the love that he bears to Christ, as the Model 
and mainspring of his submission. There is not after all 
any motive more essential and fundamental, more effectual 
also, for making us perfectly obedient than this ambition 
to imitate Christ Jesus our Ideal. Why have we left all 
things, renounced all things, even our own will, except to 
follow Him more closely : Vende quae habes... et vent sequere 
me... Reliquimus omnia et secuti sumus te s . 

It is not an easv thing to follow Jesus as far as the deal, 
of the cross. Only those hearts inspired by an intense iaitn, 
hearts humble, steadfast and generous are capable of it. 
In order to march courageously in the footsteps of Christ 
Our Lord and King, as St. Benedict wishes, a man,must 
renounce his own will and take up the most strong y e p 
arms, the only ones that can lead us to glory . i 
obedience : Quisquis abrenuntians proprns voluntatibus d - 
MINO CHRISTO VERO REGI MILITATURUS obedicntiae fo 
atque praeclara arma sitmis 6 . Obedience may 30 ™ e .L , 
require heroic patience and self-abnegation. u Y 
Father himself forewarns us of this. But did 
Master find it agreeable to be delivered up p J » 

insulted by the Pharisees, spat upon by the soldiery . JNo, 

Father, and therelore hastened as one enamoured r °£ d ° f translated 

lit up with the light of glory. ” Dialogue. On Obedience, cn. 1, 

by Algar Thorold. T ,, , loan, iv, 34- 

1. Luc. XII, 50. — 2. Ibid. XXII 15 - — ' 3 - I° an - XIV ’ 3 4 J 

5 . Matth. xix, 21, 27. — 6. Prologue of the Rule, 



Z78 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

all this filled Him with horror and disgust ; and yet He ac- 
cepted all to prove to His Father the love wherewith His 
Heart overflowed. His Father had willed that He should be 
treated as the last of men, the outcast of the people ; that He 
should undergo the death of one cursed, cum sceleratis 1 . 
And so deep was His submission that He allowed Himself 
to be led to immolation as a Lamb that does “ not open his 
mouth, ” Et non aperiet os suum 2 . 

Now it is even as far as this that Christ Jesus is the Model 
of our obedience. None will ever make us suffer such things, 
nor ask of us such obedience. If God sometimes permits 
that obedience should crush us, let us, in those difficult mo- 
ments, look at Christ Jesus in His agony or hung upon the 
Cross, and let us say to Him from the depths of our heart : 
Dili gam te et tradam meipsum pro tc 3 : "Because I love 
Thee I accept Thy will. ” Then divine peace — that peace 
which passes all understanding — will descend into our soul 
with the sweetness of heavenly grace. This alone will give 
us the strength and patience to endure all things in silence 
of heart and lips : Tacita conscicntia palienliam amplectatur 4 . 

But when a man has not this faith which shows God to be 
the one Good, when he is not carried on by this generous 
and ardent love for the Person of Christ Jesus, he seeks 
himself, he is attached to such or such a work, to such or 
such a charge, he goes no further than his own ideal. Does 
the Superior happen to touch this charge, this work, to oppose 
this ideal, then woe betide 1 ... It cannot be said of these 
souls what our Holy Father declares of the perfect monk 
that he “ leaves what is his own ” : Relinquenles quae SUA 
sunt 6 . When a man “ truly seeks God, ” Si revera Deum 
quaerit 6 , and not self, he is content with whatever task 
obedience imposes upon him, however humble, obscure, 
painful or difficult this task may be ; he even judges himself 
to be unworthy of it, as St. Benedict wills 7 , because all 
obedience, coming from God, leads us to God, and it is always 
a signal grace to be enabled to draw near to God in order 
to be united to Him 8 . 

It needs great love to arrive at this degree of the virtue. 
In fact, to obey always without faltering, to submit in 

i. Isa. liii, 12. — 2. Ibid. 7. — 3. Cf. Gal. 11, 20. — 4. Rule, ch. vn. — 
5. Rule, ch. v. — 6. Ibid. ch. lviii. — 7. Ad omnia quae sibi injunguttlur 
velut operakium se ma'Lum judicet et iNDiGNUM. Rule, cb. vii. — 8. We are 
speaking here of the orders of Superiors, but this can be applied, all proportion 
guarded, to obedience to the Rule and to the traditions established by the Con- 
stitutions. We touched on this point of faithfulness to the Rule and the 
common life in the conference on " The Instruments of Good Works ", a: d 
" The Cenobitical Society ”, 


BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 


279 

everything, in omni obedientia, to a frail and fallible man, 
is, I repeat it, very hard to nature : but it gives God a homage 
that is very pleasing to Him. 

A pleasing homage, first of all because to allow oneself 
to be thus moulded by obedience, is to arrive — and " in- 
fallibly, " sine dubio J , St. Benedict says forcibly — at 
perfectly reproducing in oneself the features of Christ. 
F actus obediens usque ad mortem. Now this is all that the 
Heavenly Father wills, namely, that we should be conformed 
to His beloved Son. Never let us forget that the more we 
reproduce these features in us, the more will the Father 
place His delight in us and pour upon us the abundance of 
His grace : for God’s love is divinely active in the soul. 

A pleasing homage, secondly, because it is to surrender 
to God what is dearest and most sacred to us ; it is to offer 
Him the most entire and religious sacrifice that we can 
bring to Him 2 . Therefore God draws straight to Him those 
who never let themselves be turned away from rendering 
Him this homage, those who aim at imitating the obedience 
of Christ Jesus, despite the difficulties and repugnances 
they experience : Scientes per hanc obedientiae viam se tltiros 
ad Deum 8 / others, those who consider the man in the Supe- 
rior, discuss the rightfulness or expediency of his orders, 
or are held back by difficulties and these come near God 
without ever fully finding Him : In circuitu ambulant' 1 . 

X. 


Let us often beseech God to give us that light of faith 
and strength of love which will render our obedience perfect. 
Thus supernaturally sustained, this obedience will become 
easy, generous, simple, prompt and joyous : Non trepide, 
non tarde, non tepide, aut cum murmurio vel cum responso 110- 
lentis s . It is important that all these qualities should accom- 
pany the exercise of our obedience. Our Holy Father wishes 
us to obey with a good will, bono animo, and he adds with 
St. Paul that " God loveth a cheerful giver 6 . ” Even when 
we always see Christ in the Superior it may yet happen 
that the Superior’s character is the antithesis of our own, 
which may for the whole of our life render obedience natu- 
rally difficult for us, but our love for God should overcome 
these difficulties. If not, it is to be feared that our obedience 


1. Rule, ch. v. — 3. Quod obedialur pmelato in quantum esl 
pertinet ad religionem qua qti is colit et diligit Deum. S. Thom. (,uo / • » 

a. 11. Cf. ii-ii, q. civ, a. 3, ad 1. — 3- Rule, ch. lx*i, — 4- ? s - XI > 9- — 
5. Rule, ch. v. — 6. Rule, ch. v and II Cor. ix, 7* 




200 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

will fall short some day, and that to our great detriment. 

For there are many ways of allowing the spirit of obedience 
to be impaired, or even of losing it altogether. 

The obedient monk, as St. Benedict wishes, places his needs, 
desires, aspirations and aptitudes before his Superior with 
all the simplicity, all the frankness, all the loyalty of a child 
with his father. To use artifice or address, to show only 
one side of a situation or affair, to circumvent the Superior 
so as to extract an authorisation from him, even under the 
pretext of the good of souls, runs counter to the spirit of 
submission required . by the great Patriarch : in these cases, 
says St. Bernard, one simply deceives oneself 1 . 

For certain souls, one danger is to feel urged to arrange 
their own little existence apart, so as to be disturbed as 
little as possible, and practically to live as if the Superior 
did not exist. This outlook may sometimes be covered under 
the pretext of safeguarding the soul’s union with God. 
But this is only a fallacious pretext hiding a singular illusion 
full of perils 2 . And how contrary is this manner of acting 
to all that our vocation demands, to all that our Holy Rule 
requires: Abbatem sibi praeesse desiderant 3 ! St. Benedict 
certainly did not employ this last word haphazard ; we may 
be assured, on the contrary, that he chose it designedly, as 
when he wrote that the monk ought " to walk according 
to the direction of another”: Alieno judicio ambulate 4 . 
This is the spirit in which we ought to live, since this is the 
Rule we have vowed to observe "until death ” : Usque ad 
mortem. We must then in all that concerns our work, our 
personal occupations, our undertakings, place ourselves under 
the control of the Superior: Cum voluntate abbalis omnia 
agenda sunt; vindictac regulari subjaceat qui praesumpserit... 
quippiam qoamvis parvum sine jussiONE abbalis facer e 5 . 
Let every thing without exception, in our life, be marked 
with the seal of obedience :■ that is our greatness, that is 
our security. Otherwise it is to be feared that, on the da}' 
of judgment, we shall come before God with empty hands, 
because, having fulfilled our desires, realised our will, we shall 
likewise have “ received our reward ” here below : the vain 
satisfaction of our self-love : Receperunt mercedem suam, vani 

?• Quisquis vel apertt vel occulte satagit, ul quod habcl mi voluntate, hoc ei 
spiritualis Paler injungai; ipse se sedur.it, si forte sibi quasi de obedienlia 
blandiatur ; neque enim in ea re ipse praelato sed magis ex praelatus obedit. 
S. Bernard. Scrmo de tribus ordinibus Ecclesiae. P. h. t. 183, 636. — 2. 

the end of this Conference. — 3. Rule, ch. v. — 4. Ibid. — 5 > 
Ibid. ch. xlix, lxviii. 


BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 


281 


vanatn 1 . "Self-will begets nothing in the spiritual life, 
except eternal need 2 . " 

We see other souls voluntarily surround themselves with 
a hedge of thorns through which the Superior can scarcely 
pass ; it may happen that, for the sake of peace, he dare 
not command them such or such work, or employ them 
in such or such charge. Undoubtedly they would not refuse 
in so many words, but they cannot be counted upon. They 
are lacking in that spiritual docility which is the very essence 
of obedience ; and this lack of suppleness often comes from 
want of faith. These souls are not practically convinced 
enough that what is important in obedience, is less the ma- 
terial work to be done than the motive that makes us submit 
all our being to God in order to please Him. They believe 
that the works in which they ensconce themselves are more 
important than the rest, while in reality everything, in the 
sight of God, Eternal Wisdom, is measured by the obedience 
and love that inspires it. 

This state which we have been considering does great 
harm to souls ; for they practically cease to advance in 
the way whereby we return to God ; they are not drawn 
into the current of heavenly peace ; they are not borne along 
by the impetuosity of the river of God ; they amuse them- 
selves upon ‘the banks, going on indifferently, and they 
only reach the port with great difficulty, if indeed they 
do reach it. For, to render oneself, wilfully, so little ap- 
proachable that the Superior no longer feels free to express 
his will, constitutes, for one who has promised obedience, 
a breaking of his word and an act of sloth : it is the in 
obedientiae desidia 3 of which our Holy Father speaks when 
he says that it “ separates from God. " “ Set aside your 

free will " says the Venerable Blosius, “ and obey for God with 
humble readiness. Better to pull up nettles and wee s in 
the simplicity of obedience by our own choice than to employ 
our time in the contemplation of the most sublime eaven y 
mysteries, for the most pleasing sacrifice to Lo ls 
abnegation of self-will. He who resists his Superiors 
will not obey, deprives himself of heavenly grace an 
nowise please the Lord, if he change not . 

It is true that to submit unreservedly to obedience may 
require great sacrifices. But to hesitate mo e ic > 
not this to hesitate before the one Good that ve 


1. Cf Matth. VI, 5. — 2 - s* Mech tilde, The Book Rule.^ 

ch. xix, How useful it ts to break our self-will. 3 * 1 K & 

4 * Sancluaiu de fame fidHc , § 1 . (Ettvres spintuelles. 


I 




282 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

come to seek in the monastery and which. we shall only 
meet in the way of obedience ? Is it not saying implicitly 
to God : “ My God, I do not love Thee enough to make Thee 
this sacrifice, to render Thee this homage ? ” Were these 
the sentiments that inspired us on the blessed day of our 
religious profession ? 

Let us then in this matter be of great and vigilant delicacy 
of soul, for it is not all at once, but little by little, that one 
arrives at that state of living, practically, outside obedience, 
— a state that cannot be without real danger for the religious. 

It is also of extreme importance to watch over the avenues 
of our heart and never to permit murmuring to creep in. 
Murmuring is regarded by our Holy Lawgiver as one of the 
greatest perils in the life of a monk ; he combats it forcibly 
and in every circumstance. We might ask why our Holy 
Father so strongly condemns all murmuring and all disobe- 
dience while he shows himself so unusually indulgent for 
faults of weakness. It is because his soul, bathed in divine 
light, saw that this diversity of attitude was according to 
God’s own ways. 

Let us open the Holy Scriptures ; we shall therein find 
an astonishing revelation of the way God judges of sins. 
There is David. Elected king by the Lord, heaped with 
heaven’s gifts, David forgets all these benefits from on high 
and allows himself to be drawn into murder and adultery. 
The Lord sends the prophet Nathan to the king to denounce 
the enormity of his crime. And David, immediately filled 
with repentance, utters these simple words : “ I have sinned 
against the Lord ” : Peccavi Domino. Then the prophet 
replies : “ The Lord also hath taken away thy sin : thou 
slialt not die ; nevertheless... the child that is born to thee, 
shall surely die 1 ." The expiation was great, but God's 
forgiveness remained assured to David in spite of the extent 
of his sin. 

Let us now look at another scene which had come to pass 
a few years previously. There is Saul. Established as king 
of Israel by God Himself, he is good, chaste, simple ; but he 
is attached to his own judgment. The Lord had commanded 
him to make war against the Amalecites and to exterminate 
these enemies of his people without sparing them. You 
know what Saul did : he spared the life the king of the 
Amalecites and reserved what was best in the booty. And 
remark that Saul’s intention was, in itself, excellent : it 

i. II Reg. xn,.ivi«. 


BONUM ■ OB EDI ENT I AE 


283 

was not for himself that he thus kept a part of the booty, 
it was in order to offer it in sacrifice to the Lord. Now how 
did God act in this circumstance ? He rejected Saul for 
ever, despite the king’s repentance. " Doth the Lord 
desire holocausts and victims, ’’ said the prophet Samuel 
to Saul, “ and not rather that the voice of the Lord 
should be obeyed ? For obedience is better than 
sacrifices : and to hearken than to offer the fat of rams. 
Because it is like the sin of witchcraft, to rebel : and like the 
crime of idolatry, to refuse to obey. Forasmuch therefore 
as thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord hath 
also rejected thee from being king... ” Saul then breathes 
forth his repentance, as David was to do later : " I have 
sinned... pardon my sin... ” But it is in vain that he 
reiterates the expression of his repentance, that he beseeches 
Samuel : he is rejected, — and rejected for ever. — So great 
is the horror with which disobedience inspires God, even 
when it seems to be justified by good reasons : Melior est 
obcdientia quam victimae 1 . 5 

We hence understand why our Holy Father is so strongly 
opposed to all disobedience, and why he so severely condemns 
murmuring which, like a canker, eats into the root of the 
spirit of obedience and makes all true submission impossible^ 
Let us listen to his words, for they are grave. If the monk, 
he says, “ obev with ill-will, if he murmur not with his lips, 
but even in his heart, although he fulfil the order lie has 
received, it will not be accepted by God Who seeth the hear 
of the murmurer ; and . far from obtaining any grace or 
such an action, he will rather incur the punishment of 
murmurers, unless he amend and make reparation < 
is St. Benedict’s explicit teaching. And this doct ™® “ 
perfectly just. Murmuring is, in fact, like the in e . y 

that one takes for having obeyed when practically one 

cannot do otherwise than obey. The order is ma y 
executed ; but the essence of obedience, which is the loving 
submission of the whole being, is absent . I 

Murmuring is the resistance of the soul which is most 
often manifested by words, by criticising t e o gi > 
its legitimacy or its expediency. _ „ . , , 

Our holy Father calls murmuring an evil a 

tionis malum 3 , quite the contrary o, bonum •• , 

Why is it an evil ? Because it turns the soul a way it not 
always from the outward observance, at lea 

x. I Reg. XV. - 2 . Rule, ch. v.- 3- Ibid. cb. xxxiv. - 2. Ibid. cb. lxxi. 



284 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


inward submission of the heart, essential to the perfection 
of obedience ; hence it turns away the soul from *' the way 
that leads to God ” : Scicntes per Itanc obedicntiae viam se 
iluros ad Deum ; it turns the soul away from God, its supreme 
Good, in turning it away from the authority that represents 
God. It is a stratagem of the devil to make a soul doubt 
the legitimacy of the orders of authority ; when this 
doubt has arisen, the devil has won his part : this is the his- 
tory of the first fall and of all those that have followed it. 
Even when a man murmurs without any bitterness, when he 
pretends only to state objectively the errors, the weaknesses 
or the faults of authority, he can do considerable harm to 
souls ; serving as an agent to the devil to do his business, 
he repeats to others what the serpent breathes in his ears. 
With poisonous breatli he tarnishes the freshness of the 
" humble and sincere love ” towards authority that St. Be- 
nedict requires of the monk. 

The evil of murmuring is so much the more to be dreaded 
in that it has the power of infecting others : it is like a 
microbe capable of ravaging all the members of a community 
one after the other. However, in order to live and be pro- 
pagated it needs a propitious soil. The Superior can do 
•nothing directly against murmuring ; it is in a sense beyond 
his grasp ; it is for the organism to defend itself. If the 
murmurer finds no complaisant ear to listen to him, he loses 
his time and pains and has to keep his murmuring to himself ; 
but it is a terrible evil because it is a sheer dissolvant of 
inward perfection. 

Whence comes the evil of murmuring ? Almost always 
from lack of faith 1 . One sees the man in the Superior, and 
no longer Christ ; faith no longer covering the weaknesses or 
imperfections of the man, his commands are judged because 
the man himself is judged. And by force of habit, the 
murmurer spares nothing, neither men, nor institutions, nor 
customs, nor works. Nothing escapes his criticism. If he 
w ^ s . governed by an archangel, he would still find means of 
criticising his orders. Look at the Jews in the time of the 
Gospel. Our Blessed Saviour was assuredly perfection itself ; 
and yet the Jews often murmured at what He said or what 
He did. If Christ heals on the Sabbath day, these men, 


, l*. j 1° disobedient man*' said the Eternal Father to S l Catherine, “is 
deluded by his self-love, because the eye of his intellect is fixed with a' dead 
faith, on Dleasin tr hi*; on/i u 1 


, ~ , . * .V uic eye 0/ ms micucci ts iixca xctin a acau, 

faith, on pleasing his self-will, and on things of the world... because obedience 
seems weariness to him, he wishes to avoid weariness, whereby he arrives at 
the greatest weariness of all, for he is obliged to obey either by force or by 
love, ana it would have been better and less wearisome to have obeyed by love 
than without it. Dialogue, ch.vm. Translated by Algar Thorold. 


BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 


ii 

l 


1 



285 

full of bitter zeal and thinking themselves the guardians of 
the Law, murmur 1 . Does He eat with the Publicans ? 
they murmur 2 . Does He enter the house of Zacheus ? 
they murmur 3 . If He forgives sins, they are scandalised 4 . 
If He reveals the secret of His love for men, in announcing 
the gift of the Eucharist, they cavil 5 . Therefore Christ 
Jesus Himself says that nothing finds favour in their eyes : 
“ Whereunto shall I esteem this generation to be like ?... 
For John came neither eating nor drinking ; and they say : 
He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, 
and they say : Behold a man that is a glutton and a wine 
drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners 6 . " 

Let us then carefully and before all things keep ourselves 
from all murmuring, as our Holy Father warns us to do 
so insistently and earnestly ; for nothing is more contrary 
to the letter and spirit of the Rule than murmuring: 
ante omnia, ns murmurationis malum pro qualicumque 
causa in aliguo qualicumque verba vel significations appa- 
rent 7 . 


However, we must distinguish the difference between 
complaining and murmuring. Complaining is in nowise an 
imperfection, it may even be a prayer. Look at our Lord 
Jesus, the Model of all holiness. Upon the Cross, did He 
not complain to His Father of being forsaken ? But what 
is it that makes the difference between these two attitudes ? 
Murmuring evidently implies opposition, .malevolence (at 
least transitory) in the will ; however, it proceeds more 
formally from the mind ; it is a sin of the mind derived from 
the spirit of resistance. It is a contentious manifestation. 
Complaint on the contrary, if we suppose it to be pure, 
comes only from the heart ; it is the cry of a heart that is 
crushed, that feels suffering, but however accepts it entirely, 
and lovingly. We can feel the difficulties of obedience, 
experience even movements of repugnance : that may happen 
to the most perfect soul ; there is no imperfection in this 
as long as the will does not adhere to these movements of 
revolt which sometimes get the better of the sensitive nature. 
Did not our Lord Himself feel such inward trouble . f-oepit 
tacdsre et pavers et maestus esse. And what did He Who is 


1. Joan, v, 16. — 2. Matth. rx, 11,— 3- Luc. xix, 7. — 4; lbi d. v, 21.^ 
5. Joan, vi, 53. — 6. Matth. xr, 16-19, — 7. Rule, ch. 
nedict’s eyes, monastic peace is a benefit which surpasses all ot ' \ on 

muring seems to him the worst of evils. Abbot Delatte, Co 1 L , 
the Rule of S* Benedict, translated by D. Justin Me Cann, p. 253. ihe wnoie 
passage should he read. 


286 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


our Ideal say in these terrible moments ? Paler, si possibile 
est, transeat a me calix isle 1 . “ My Father, if it be possible, 
let this chalice pass from Me. ” What a plaint wrung from 
God's innermost Heart in the face of the most terrible 
obedience ever proposed here below ! But likewise how this 
cry from the depths of crushed sensitive nature, is covered 
by the cry, far deeper still, of entire abandonment to the 
Divine Will : V ennntamen fiat voluntas tua, non mea / 

From murmuring, on the contrary, love is absent : therefore 
murmuring separates from God ; it destroys precisely what 
our holy Patriarch wishes to establish in us : that “ amen " 
of every instant, that loving “ fiat ” coming more from the 
heart than the lips : in a word, that perpetual and incessant 
submission of our whole being to the divine will for love of 
Christ. 


Let us watch over ourselves. Obedience is too precious 
a good for us. not to safeguard it with care. Let us love 
this good, this " bonum, " as our Holy Father is pleased 
to call it, for it contains and gives God. Let us seek it with 
love and guard it jealously. Let us think of the example 
given us by those who seek for gold. They are told that 
in some El Dorado, in some region unknown to them, gold 
is to be found. They set of 1 with gladness, upheld by the 
hope of riches ; they leave country, friends, family ; they 
embark, cross the seas, force their way through a thousand 
dangers, to the interior of unknown lands. Behold them at 
last, after many toils, perils and explorations, arrived at 
the place where lies the precious metal. Let us now suppose 
that after having extracted it from the ground, at the cost 
of many pains and labours, they prepare to return without 
taking back with them all the ingots they can, but content 
themselves with a few nuggets held in the hollow of their 
hands. What should we say of these men who have under- 
gone so many sufferings, endured so many labours, overcome 
so many obstacles to content themselves finally with such 
meagre gain ? That they are fools. And we should be right. 

Now that is the portrait of a monk who, after some time 
spent in the monastery, suffers the loyalty of his obedience 
to be impaired. . There is none amongst us that has not 
made great sacrifices before crossing the threshold of the 
cloister. We read one day in Holy Scripture, or we heard 

i. Matth. xxvi, 39. 


BONUM OBEDIENTIAE 



287 

Christ give us in prayer, the counsel to leave all things and 
follow Him. “ Come, follow Me and I will give thee life, 

I will be thy beatitude. ” This Divine Voice, full of 
sweetness, touched our soul to its depths ; we understood 
the call of Jesus ; and then, like the merchant in the Gospel, 
who, having found a treasure in a field, sold all that he had 
to gain this field and make himself master of the treasure, 
we left all things. We said farewell to all that was dear to 
us we renounced the legitimate joys of hearth and home, 
the visible affection of our own dear ones. Why did we 
consent to all these acts of renunciation ? To gain the trea- 
sure which is none other than God Himself. And where do 
we find this treasure ? In eternity we shall find it in the 
ineffable and supreme bliss of God ; here below in the obe- 
dience of faith. This is the treasure we seek and that 
obedience gives us. And after such great sacrifices, so often 
renewed, instead of appropriating this precious good in the 
greatest possible measure, shall we content ourselves with 
taking some small particles ? Is it sufficient for us to obey 
from time to time, just 'enough not to fail in our vow ? 
God grant it is not so, that we are not so foolish as thus 
to squander eternal treasures in advance ! 

Neither let us forget that our vow of obedience is a solemn 
promise made to God on the day of our profession. .Each 
time that we deliberately exempt ourselves from obedience, 
in whatever way it may be, we “ like cowards ” (it is St. Be- 
nedict’s expression) take back something from what we have 
given. On the day of judgment, God Who is not mocked, 
Dens non irridetur 1 , will require of us, with a rigorous 
judgment, the account ot the fidelity we swore to Him. . 
We shall not be able to say to God : “ I wished to attain 
perfection, but' my Superior was an imperfect, annoying 
person with exaggerated ideas, who let himself be guided by 
paltry and partial motives, and opposed my p ans. o 
will answer us : " The faults ot your Superior only concern 
Me ; it is before Me that he is responsible for them, as tor aU 


we have all promised obedience simply and wittioi « wj r while murmuring 

If then we make a feint of obeying unde -the master _s eye, wu ^ ^ 

k;s,° s s 

damnandum sciat quern irridet. 




288 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

the orders that he has given ; as to you, I was, by My wisdom 
and goodness, bound to make up for the imperfections and 
human errors of the one who represented Me towards you ; 
and I would have done so abundantly it, having had faith 
in My word, you had placed your hope in My fidelity. ” 

Let us rather live in obedience, let us make it " our food” 
as Christ Himself did : Meus cibus est ut faciam voluntatem 
eius 1 . Let us ask our Lord for tills virtue of obedience in 
all its perfection, this virtue which surrenders the judgment, 
will, heart, the whole being to God and to His representative. 
If we are faithful in asking for this grace, Christ Jesus will 
certainly grant it to us. Each morning, let us join ourselves 
to Jesus in His obedience, in the entire submission that He 
made of Himself at the moment of the Incarnation : “ Behold 
me, 0 my God, I give myself to Thee, to Thy good pleasure. 
Because I love Thee, I will give Thee the homage that consists 
in submitting my whole being to Thy will whatever it may 
be. I wish to say in union with Thy Son Jesus : Quia 
diligo Patron, et sicut mandatum dedit mihi Pater, sic facia 2 . 
This Will may perhaps be painful to my nature, to my tastes, 
it may be opposed to my personal ideal, hard to my spirit of 
independence, but I want to offer Thee this sacrifice as 
testimony of my faith in Thy word, of my confidence in 
Thy power, and of the love I bear to Thee and to Thy Son 
Jesus. ” We ought to renew this offering every day, even 
— and especially — if it happen that a work imposed or 
approved by the Superior responds to our personal tastes. 
Otherwise, it is greatly to be feared that the natural satis- 
faction we may find in it will carry us away and make us 
forget that spirit of obedience with which our works ought 
to be done in order to be pleasing to God 3 . 

If we act in this way, our obedience will be sanctified 
by contact with that of Jesus. He, who infinitely desires 
that we be “ one with Him 4 , ” will grant us to reach little 
by little the perfection not only of the vow, but of the 
virtue. And through this virtue, He will finish the work 
of detaching us from ourselves to unite us entirely to Himself, 
since we shall no longer have any will but His own, — and, 
through Him, we shall be united to His Father. 

Then all will become more and more pleasant and easy 
for us because we shall draw our strength from Jesus, Who, 
in order to communicate it to us, draws it Himself from 

i. Joan, iv, 31- - Ibid, xiv, 31. — 3. This is the counsel that S' Grc- 
g° r y 0i y cs us : t bcdxentuie si hi virtutem evacuat qui ad prospera etiam et 
propno destderto anhelal. Moralia, lib. xxxv. c. id. P. L., 7b, 706. — 4. Joan, 
xvu, 21. * 1 ' 






the Bosom of the Father. Love upholding us, all will be 
indifferent to us ; we shall have no preference for such or 
such a work, but we shall accomplish with equal perfection 
the little things as the great : all coming to us from God, 
all will likewise lead us to God. 

We shall unceasingly increase that eternal inheritance 
which we came here to seek and that nothing, if we so wish, 
can take away from us, because we find it in God Himself. 
“ O Lord, full of goodness, teach me, for the sake of this 
goodness, to keep Thy precepts, for the law that falls from 
Thy lips is infinitely more precious to me than heaps of gold 
and silver ” : Bonus es tu, [ Domine ], et in bonitale tua doce 
me justificationcs tuas; bonum mihi lex oris tui, super millia 
auri et ar genii 3 . 

1. Ps. cxvin, 68, 72. 


NOTE (See pp. 261 and 280). 

S* Teresa has upon the subject of obedience some words too siRnificant 
not to be quoted here, and her testimony can sum up all the others : ' It 
would be a strange thing, ” she writes, “ if, when God clearly told us to betake 
ourselves to some work that concerns Him, we were to do nothing but stand 
still and gaze upon Him because that gives us a greater joy. A pleasant 
progress this in the love of God ! — to tie His hands through an opinion that 
He can do us good only in one way. 

" I know of some, and have lived among them — I put on one side my 
own experience, as 1 said before — who taught me the truth of this ; when 
I was myself in great distress because of the little time I had, and accordingly 
was sorry to see them always employed and having much to do, because they 
were under obedience, and was thinking within myself, and even said as much 
to them, that spiritual growth was not possible amidst so much hurry ana 
confusion, for they had then not grown much. O Lord, how different are iny 
ways from what we imagined them to be ! and how Thou, if a soul be determin- 
ed to love Thee, and resigned in Thy hands, askest nothing of it but obedie , 
the sure knowledge of what is for Thy greater honour, and the desire to do u. 
•That soul need not seek out means, nor make a choice of any, for its wi ■ * 

ready Thine. Thou, O Lord, hast taken upon Thyself to guide it :m l the way 
most profitable to it. And even if the superior be not mindful ?t that soui s 
profit, but only of the duties to be discharged in theXommumty, thou, u 
ray God, art mindful of it ; Thou preparest its ways, and orderest those things 
we have to do, so that we find ourselves, without our knowing ho , y 
fully observing, for the love of God, the commands that are ‘ a ... P vit u 
spiritually^ growing and making gfeat progress, which afterwards 

And after having brought forward several examples illustrating her teaching, 
the great Saint stimulates us with one if those exclamations sochar . 

her: ■" Well, then my children, be not discouraged, for if °^^ n ce .^ P /^d 
you in outward things, know that even if you are m,the la ... .» 
moves amidst the pots and pans, helping us both within a which can 

Then becoming grave again, she concludes with this 


Luen Decoming grave again, sue coiiwuu» sees 

only be bom in the light from on high : " I believe myself that 
there is no road that leads more quickly to the highest perfec an d 

obedience, he suggests many difficulties under the colour o g » ' 

makes it distasteful ; let people look well into it, and they will see plainly 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



290 

that I am telling the truth... What I aim at showing is the reason, in my 
opinion, whv obedience furnishes the readiest or the best way for arriving 
at so blessed a state. That reason is this : as we are never absolute masters 
of our own will, so as to employ it purely and simply for God, till we subject 
it wholly to reason, obedience is the true means of bringing aboift that subjec- 
tion ; which can never he brought about by much reasoning, because our 
nature and self-love can furnish so much on their side that we shall never come 
to an end, and very often will make that which is most reasonable, if we have 
no liking for it, to seem folly because we have no inclination to do it. " The 
Foundations, ch. V. Translated from the Spanish by David Lewis. AU this 
chapter should be read. 


B. — THE LIFE OF UNION WITH CHRIST 
(...et eecuti aumua te). 


XIII. — THE OPUS DEI, Divine Praise. 


Summary. — God has made all things tor His glory ; how the Divine 
Office procures this glory for God : St. Benedict rightly calls 
it the Opus Dei. — I. Ultimate basis of the excellence of the 
Divine Office : the canticle of the Word in the bosom of the 
Divinity and in creation. - — II. The Word Incarnate has 
bequeathed to the Church, His Bride, the mission of per- 
petuating His canticle. — III. The Church confides a more 
important part of this mission to some chosen souls. — 
IV. The Divine Office becomes, through the heart and voice 
of man, the hymn of all creation. — V. It forms a parti- 
cular homage of the virtues of faith, hope and charity. — 
VI. This homage is invested with a special splendour when it 
is offered in suffering : Sacrificium laudis. 


W hen we would judge of the absolute value of 
anything or any work we ought to try to do so 
from God’s point of view. God alone is the 
Truth ; truth is the light in which God, Eternal Wisdom, 
sees all things ; these are worth what they are in God s 
estimation. That is the sole infallible criterion of judgment, 
outside which we expose ourselves to deception. It is a 
truth familiar to us that our holiness is of the supernatural 
order, that is to say above the rights, exigencies and 
powers of our nature; all then that relates to this super- 
natural order, of which God alone is the Author, surpasses 
by its transcendency, all our human conceptions. Go s 
thoughts and ways are not ours ; He Himself tells us 
soiNon enim cogitationes meae, cogitatioiies vestrae. neque 
viae vestrae, viae meae, dicit Dominus 1 , Between our ways 
and God's there is the infinite : Sicut exaltantur cash a terra-. 
This is why, in order to know the truth about things 0 
supernatural domain, we must see them as God sees them 
that is, with the eyes of faith. Faith is the light that reveals 
I. Isa. lv, 8. — 2. Ibid. 9. 



292 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

the Divine thoughts to us and makes us penetrate into God’s 
designs. Lacking this light, there is but darkness and error 
in regard to spiritual things. 

Now one capital truth God has granted us to know touching 
His designs is that He has created everything and done 
everything for His glory : Universa propter semetipsum operatus 
est Dominus 1 . God gives us all things ; He gives Himself 
in the person of His Well-Beloved Son, Jesus, and with Him 
He gives us all good things ; He has prepared for us for 
all eternity an infinite beatitude in the fellowship of His 
adorable Trinity. But there is one thing that He reserves 
jealously for Himself, that He neither will nor can give us : 
that is His glory: Ego Dominus ; glori am meant alteri non 
dabo 2 . 

This being so, things are of value only in the measure in 
which they procure this glory for God. There are some 
works which, of their own nature, have no direct relationship 
with this glory ; for example, in the intellectual order, to 
devote oneself to literary work, to teaching ; and, in the 
manual order, to sweep the cloisters or work in the garden 
or kitchen ; transformed by the love wherewith they are 
done, these works become pleasing to God ; however, they 
procure His glory indirectly, not of themselves, fine operantis, 
that is to say by reason of the right intention of the one who 
performs them in view of pleasing God 3 * * . 

Other works go to procure this glory directly ; they are 
agreeable to God not only on account of the love of the 
one who accomplishes them but in themselves : fine operis; 
their direct end, like the elements that compose them, are 
supernatural : such are Holy Mass and the administration of 
the Sacraments. It is quite evident that in themselves, 
abstraction made of the interior dispositions of the one who 
performs them, these works surpass, from God’s point of 
view, all other works. 

The Divine Office belongs to this second group. Not 
only in our intention, but by reason of its nature, its com- 
position, and the elements of which it is constituted, it 
relates entirely to God ; of itself, fine operis, it has God in 
view. With the Holy Sacrifice, around which it gravitates, 
it forms the most complete expression of religion ; it is by 
excellence “ the work of God, " Opus Dei, Opus divinum : 

i. Prov. xvi, 4 ; sec what we have said on this subject in the conference 

on humility. — 2. Isa. xlii, 8. — 3, We are speaking, of course, of the 

supernatural order ; it is evident that every upright act, morally good, gives 

of itself a certain glory to God, from the fact that it enters already into the 

natural order willed by Him. 


l 


THE OPUS DEI , DIVINE PRAISE 


293 


that is the beautiful name by which our Holy Father calls it. 

Doubtless, the Divine Office contains petitions, prayers of 
impetration, but this is not its dominant element ; before 
allfthe Divine Office is praise, and this praise is perfectly 
summed up in the doxology which ends each psalm : Gloria 
Patri et Filio et Spiriiui Sancto. The direct aim of the 
Office is to confess and exalt the Divine perfections, to 
delight in them, and thank God for them : Gralias agimus 
tibi, propter magnam gloriam htam 1 . It proceeds from this 
principle : “ Thou art worthy, 0 Lord, to receive glory and 
honour ” : Dignus es, Domine, Deus nostcr, gloriam accipere 
et honorem... 2 This is the cry of the elect in heaven: 
contemplating God’s infinite perfections, they are necessarily 
lost in praise and adoration : Magnus Dominus et laudabilis 
nimis 3 . 


Now we, as religious, are seeking God ; it was for this we 
came to the monastery ; what is more natural therefore 
than to adopt the Divine Office as our principal work, by 
which we especially devote ourselves to God s service ? 
How are we " to seek Him truly, ” — si revera Dcum quaerit \ 
unless we occupy ourselves first of all with Him, with His 
perfections and His works ? Et laudabunt Dominant qut 
requirunt eum B . But in return, the more that we find Him, 
and that He reveals Himself to us, the more we feel the 
need of celebrating His perfections and works \ Quaerenles 
enim invenient eum, et invenientes laudabunt eum 6 . 

Thus, after having pointed out the purpose of our life, 
after having established the authority of the head or the 
monastery and defined the cenobitical life, after haying shown 
how humility and obedience achieve the work of removing 
obstacles from the path of perfection, St. Benedict spea - s 
to us of the Divine Office. He devotes numerous chap ers 
to regulating it ; he makes the Divine Office, not t le en 
nor even the exclusive nor characteristic work of the mon , 
but the principal work to which the others, in the or e 
estimation and action, are to be subordinate : Nt it p 
Dei praeponatur 7 . He establishes a school oft e 
service : Dominici schola servilii 8 , and the Divine _ 

constitutes, in this school the first " service of our eve i ■ 
Devotionis servitium 9 . Doubtless, as we have a ye » 

St. Benedict does not exclude other works, an is > y ' 

well as tradition for which we ought to have a hum P > 


„ T>c vr VII I. — 4. Rule, 

i. Gloria of the Mass. — 2. Apoc. iv, n. 3 - , p, p. 32, 

ch. lvhi. — 5 . Ps. xxi, 27.-6. S. Augustm. Confas. i . ■ RuIe ch. 

col. 66i. — 7. Rule, oh. ju.hi. — 8. Prologue of the Rule. 9 

WltT 1 



CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



294 

shows us that in the course of ages our Order has filled many 
missions in the varied domain of Christian civilisation ; 
but it remains none the less true that the work which first of 
all claims our attention and energies is the Divine Praise. 
This same Divine Praise is also, apart from the Sacraments, 
the surest means for us monks of entering into contact 
with God. The Divine Office which gives so much glory to 
the Lord becomes for each of us an extremely' fruitful source 
of sanctification. We will reserve this second point for the 
next conference ; let us now endeavour to see how the Opus 
Dei constitutes an infinitely pleasing homage of praise to 
God. 

To comprehend its excellence, we have to form a concept 
of its source, its nature, its elements and its end. We must, 
of course, come to this study with eyes of faith ; faith alone 
can help us to penetrate into the truth. St. Paul says 
that only the Spirit of God is capable of searching into the 
deep things of God 1 ; while the natural spirit, not going 
below the surface of things, falls frequently into error. 

Our love of the Divine Office depending moreover on the 
esteem we have for it, and on our faith in its value, it 
is supremely useful to us that this faith should be en- 
lightened and this esteem well and solidly grounded. 

I. 

It is in lifting up our minds by faith — a faith full of 
reverence — even to the heights of the Adorable Trinity, 
that we shall find the very fountainhead of praise. We 
have the right to seek our examples thus high, for by grace, 
we are no longer strangers but sons belonging, through 
Christ, to the family of God: Non eslis hospites et advenac, 
sed eslis cives sanctorum et domcstici Dei 2 . 

What has Christ granted us to know of this ineffable life 
of God in Three Persons ? 

The Word, says St. Paul, is "the brightness of His (Father's) 
glory, and the . figure of His substance 3 . " The Word, the 
Son, is essentially, the glory of His Father. From all 
eternity, this Son in a single infinite Word which is Himself, 
expresses, the Father's perfection, and this is the essential 
glory that the Father receives. The Eternal Word is a 
Divine canticle singing the Father’s praise. In principio 
ertil Verbum, ct Verbum eral afiud Deitm, et Deus end 

l. I Cor. II, 10-11. — 2 . Eph. II, 19. — 3, Ilebr. 1, 3. 


THE OPUS DEI, DIVINE PRAISE 295 

Verbum 1 . From all eternity He gives, has given and will 
give, in this infinite and unique act which is Himself, eternal 
and ’adequate glory to His Father. This glory consists in 
the infinite knowledge that the Son has of His Father, of 
the perfections of His Father, and in the infinite appreciation 
that He utters concerning them : an appreciation equal 
to God, worthy of God ; God has no need of any other 
glory. 

The Word sees also in His Father the eternal decrees of 
His Wisdom and Bounty, all the merciful designs which are 
wrought in the creation, in the Redemption, in the institution 
of the Eucharist, and realised daily in the sanctification of 
souls : Quod j actum cst in ipso vita est 2 ; He contemplates all 
these objects and glorifies His Father for them : Quammagni- 
ficala sunt opera tua, Domine! omnia in sapieniia fecisti 3 . 

This is the infinite hymn that ever resounds in sinu 
Palris 11 and ever ravishes the Father. The Word is the 
Canticle that God inwardly sings to Himself, the Canticle 
that rises up from the depths of the Divinity, the Living 
Canticle wherein God eternally delights, because it is the 
infinite expression of His perfection. 

The mystery of the Divine Life which we have just searched 
into with all reverence, bears in itself the fundamental reason 
and value of the Divine Office. „ . 

" The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us . 
Et Verbum caro factum esl,et habitavit m nobis . But never 
let us forget this truth that we sing at Christmastide W 
quod fuit permansit; quod non er at assumpsit . In takl "S 
a human nature, the Divine Word is not lessened He 
remains what He is — the Eternal Word, and consequent y 
He remains the infinite glorification of His Father H 
ever, as He has united a human nature to Himself, lrt 
unity of His Divine Person, this Sacred Humamty enter 
through the Word, into participation of the workofgiori 
fication. Christ’s Humanity is like the temple where the 
Word sings the Divine canticle which g^ 1 *' e . • 

or ratherf the Sacred Humanity * C ^ le wnrd lnclrnate 
current of the Divine Life. Did not the ^ _ th g 

Christ Jesus say : Ego vivo propter Patrem , Father’s 

Father.” All His activity tends to procure His lath 

1. Joan. 1 1. — z. Jbjd. b g 7 5 3 f 0 f S thTFeast of the Circumcision. — 
Joan, t, 14. — 6. Antiphon of Lau f* t comparison, for the union of 

7. This image is evidently only an ■ . , - ti ^ e that 0 f the temple and 

the Word with a human nature is notaccidcnta^nk tn ^ 5 s. 

the adorer ; it is a personal and substantial union 




zg 6 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

glory. This theandric activity remains that of a human 
nature; it glorifies God in a human, fashion ; but, as it 
emanates from a Divine " Person, ” as it depends upon the 
Word, the praises it supplies, human in their expression, 
become the praises of the Word, and acquire on this account 
an infinite value. 

When Christ prayed, when He recited the Psalms, when, 
as the Gospel says, He spent the night in prayer : Eral pcr- 
noctans in oratione Dei 1 , these were the human accents of a 
God ; of an absolute simplicity in eternity, the canticle of 
the Word was multiplied, detailed, upon the lips of His 
Manhood. Thus this same canticle which, from all eternity, 
the Word causes to resound in the sanctuary of the Godhead, 
was prolonged and sung upon earth when the Word became 
incarnate. 

Henceforward it will be prolonged for ever in creation. 
For ever, Christ’s Humanity will therein sing, to the glory 
of the Father, a canticle of human expression but of 
incommensurable price and consequently alone worthy of 
God : this is the Opus Cliristi. On the last day of His life, 
Christ summed up all His work in saying to His Father : Ego 
te clarificavi super terrain 2 . His whole life was but a continual 
praise to His Father’s glory. This was His essential work ; 
for Him, nothing came before the glorification of His Father. 

Certainly, He glorified Him by all His actions, in spending 
Himself for souls, in giving Himself to them as no apostle 
has ever done, in going about doing good everywhere ; but 
these were secondary forms of His praise. Above all, 
Christ, the Word Incarnate, praised His Father in exalting the 
Divine perfections in ineffable communings. Who shall tell 
us how Jesus worshipped the Father and how full this 
worship was of profound adoration ! What incense of praise 
was that which went up unceasingly from His blessed soul to 
God His Father ! Jesus contemplates the Divine perfections / 
m all their splendour and this is the source of ineffable praise. 
He rendered to His Father, in the name of the human race 
to which He authentically belongs, all the duties of adoration, ' 
praise and complacency which we owe to God. The perfect 
knowledge, the sublime comprehension that He had of 
the^inspired canticles made His praise infinitely worthy of 

Christ also contemplated the creation : in Him, the Divine 
’ i creation was full of life : In Ipso vita erat. It was 
needful that the whole order of created things should be 

i. Luo. vx, 12. — 2. Joan, xvn, 4. 


THE OPUS DEI, DIVINE PRAISE 2gj 

for once perfectly comprehended by a human soul ; Christ 
Jesus exulted in looking upon the wonders of nature, as 
the Triune God in the days of creation contemplated the 
goodnessand beauty of the work come forth from His hands : 
Viditquc Deus cuncta quae fccerat : el erant valde bona 1 . With 
what joy did Christ, seeing in creatures the reflection of the 
Father’s perfections, constitute Himself their High Priest, in 
order to bring all things back to His Father ! Hence was 
born in the soul of Jesus that perfect worship which it 
behoved Christ to offer as the supreme High Priest in 
Whom the Father finds all His delight 2 . 

II. 

But, as you know, Christ does not separate Himself from 
His Mystical Body. Before ascending into Heaven, He 
bequeaths His riches and mission to His Church. Christ, 
in uniting Himself to the Church, gives her His power of 
adoring and praising the Father ; this is the liturgy. It is 
the praise of the Church united to Jesus, supported by 
Jesus ; or rather it is the praise of Christ, the Incarnate 
Word,’ passing through the Ups of the Church. . 

Seeing her, the Angels ask each other : Who is this 

that cometh up from the desert flowing with deUghts leaning 
upon her Beloved 2 ? ’’ It is the Church, we reply, her 
beauty and charm come to her from the Bridegroom Himself, 
Whose arms uphold her ; her voice is ever sweet and her lace 

Dowered with the riches of Christ, the Church, His Bride, 
is introduced by Him into the palace of the King of Heaven, 
into the Father’s presence, and there, united to Jesus Cnris , 
she sings — as she will do until the end of ages — the cuticle 
sung in sinu Patris by the Word, and brought y 1 

Ca The Apocalypse shows us the elect adoring " Him that 
.sitteth on the throne, ” and exalting His ineffable perfections . 
Dignus es, Domine Deus nosier, accipere Sionameljionorcm 
et virtulem 6 ; that is the choir of the chu ^..^ lo f ,j d , ls0 
below is formed the choir of the Church Mihtant called also 
to take her place one day in the ranks of the blessed L but 
this choir is united, by faith and love, wi . Church 

an'd resounds too before the throne of Go , _ ^ 

is one in Christ, her Divine Head. In Heaven, says St. Au 

1. Gen. ,, 31. - =. Cf. M B r. Gay. Elcvf onjg. Si ' >« 
song for He hath done wonderful things. — 3. Cant, vin, 5 4 

— 5. Apoc. iv, 10-ix'; cf. v, 15-13. 



298 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

gustine, satisfied love sings the Alleluia in the plenitude of 
eternal enjoyment ; here below, yearning love seeks to ex- 
press the ardour of its desires ; Modo cantat amor esuriens 
tunc cantabit amor fruens 1 . But it is the same choir in two 
parts, the choir of one Church, singing the unparalleled 
canticle of Divine glory animated, both here on earth and up 
in Heaven, by the same supreme High Priest, Christ Jesus. 

The office is the official voice of the Bride of Christ. The 
Church, by her faith, confidence and love and by her union 
with Jesus, bridges the space that separates her from God 
and sings His praise, like the Word Incarnate, in the bosom 
of the Divinity. She sings, united to Christ, under God's 
very gaze ; because of her title of Bride, she always merits 
to be heard. The great work, the triumph of the Divinity 
of Jesus, is to raise us, poor mortals, even up to His Father. 
God has given to the Sacred Humanity of the Word the 
power of drawing us with It where this Humanity Itself is : 
Ascendo ad Palrem meum et Palretn veslrum, Deum meum el 
Deum veslrum 2 : " I ascend to My Father and to your Father, 
to My God and your God. ” And again : Pater, volo ut ubi 
ego sum, et till sint mecum *.* "Father, I will that where I 
am, they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with 
Me. ” After death, we shall be — we truly hope to be — 
in a real and immutable way, where the Saviour is ; but even 
now we are there by faith. The Word dwells in us by 
faith : Christum habilare -per fidem in cordibus vestris 4 . We 
are especially united to the Word Incarnate when we join 
ourselves to Him in order to sing, through Him and with 
Him, the glory of His Father. 

Such is the fundamental reason of the transcendency of 
the Opus Del; such is the incommunicable and untransferable 
privilege attached to this prayer, the Work of God, accom- 
plished with Christ, in His name, by the Church, His Bride. 

III. 

The Church associates all her children in this praise. There 
is a part of the public worship which ordinary Christians 
themselves must perform if they are to be counted among 
the disciples of Jesus. However, the Church has not content- 
ed herself with this worship common to all. In the same 
way as she chooses some from among her children to associate 
more particularly and preferably with the eternal Priesthood 

1. Sermo cclv, 5. P. L. 38, 1183. — 2. Joan, xx, 17. — 3. Ibid, xvii, 24. 
— 4. Eph. in, 17. 


THE OPUS DEI, DIVINE PRAISE 


299 


of her Spouse, so she confides to some chosen ones a more 
important and special share in her mission of praise : this 
phalanx is formed of priests and religious orders invested 
with the functions of the choir. The Church, in her name 
and that of her Bridegroom, deputes them as her ambassadors 
before God’s throne. 

An ambassador does not present himself in his own private 
capacity, he stands in the place of his sovereign or of his 
country ; these are involved when he speaks in virtue of his 
mission.’ Therefore he has a right to all the honours and 
privileges which would be given to his sovereign, and there 
is a juridical obligation that these should be granted to him. 
The reasons 'and arguments that he brings to bear in his 
diplomatic interviews have not only a private value resulting 
from the qualities and talents of the man, but they acquire 
a special weight, more or less powerful, according to the 
greatness of the country or the rank of the sovereign repre- 
sented by him. This is not a simple fiction, but is a 
moral and juridical reality which defines the very role 
of the ambassador. , 

It is proportionately the same with those whom the Church, 
the Bride of Christ, deputes in her name to hold her place 
before God, that is to say the priests and religious obliged to 
the Divine Office in virtue of the rules approved by ecclesias- 
tical authority. They stand before the Father as ambassa- 
dors appointed by the Church, whose homage they 0 e f> 
and whose interests they represent. And as the Church is 
Christ’s Bride, these ambassadors share in the privileges 
conferred upon the Church by her supernatural dignity as 
the Spouse of Jesus. When we are in choir we bear a twofold 
personality : our own individual personality^ that of our 
misery, our frailty, our faults, but also that of members 
Christ’s Myfetical Body deputed by the Church ^ 
second capacity we have to guard the numerous > 
interests of Christendom. If we know bow to “^ mir powcr 
we are sure, in spite of our imperfections, of bein f P 
to God and heard by Him. lor, when we are acquitting 

ourselves of our official functions, all f Christ 

were veiled by the prestige with which the Bride of Christ, 
invests us. The Father sees us during ^ese hours of^t he 
Divine Office, no longer as souls coming ambi^sa- 

their private interests and personal men , of the 

dors of the Bride of His Well-Beloved Son, t rea ^ n S“.X 
cause of souls with every right to do so , _ Tesus 

invested with the dignity and power of e > 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



300 

and with those of Jesus Himself. Moreover, Christ Himself 
is in the midst of us ; He has formally promised to be so ; 
He is the supreme Hierarch Who receives our prayers and 
gathers up our praises to bear them to the throne of God : 
Ad thronum grnliae 1 . Therefore, in God’s sight, this praise 
surpasses, in value and efficacy, all other praise, all other 
prayer, all other work 2 . ‘ 

This truth is absolutely beyond doubt, and the saints, 
who lived in God’s light, so understood it. St. Magdalen 
of Pazzi put assistance in choir before all the private devo- 
tions that pious persons can make ; and when one of her 
nuns asked to be dispensed from choir in order to give herself 
up to mental prayer, she replied : “No, my daughter, I 
should certainly deceive you in giving you such a permission, 
for it would be making you believe that this private devotion 
would honour God more and render you more pleasing to 
the Divine Majesty, while in comparison with this public 
office which you sing with your sisters, private prayer is 
but a small thing 3 . ’’ ■ St. Alphonsus Liguori relates, while 
making this opinion his own, the saying of a wise religious : 

“ If time is lacking to us, it is much better to shorten 
mental prayer, . and give more time to the Divine Office 
that we may be enabled to recite it with the devotion due 
to it 4 . ” 

Such is the opinion of the saints, such is the language of 
faith. There is no work that comes anywhere near the. 
Divine Office. All other works are opera hominum. This 
is truly “ the Work of God ’’ pre-eminently, because it is a 
work of praise that comes from God through the Word 
Incarnate and is offered by the Church, in Christ's Name. 

IV. 


Another reason of the transcendency of the Divine Praise 
is that it directly tends to procure God’s glory. 

Doubtless, as we have said, God finds His essential giory 
m Himself independently of any creature : Deus mens es tit, 
bonorum mcorum non eges 6 . But from the moment that 
i! er< > are c . rea ^ ures i " it is truly meet and just ” that they 
should praise God, magnify His name and give thanks to 
Him , this is in the right order of things, it is justice ; it is 
from this principle that the virtue of religion is born : Vere 


Iv >,. 16 ’ 2 ' Evidently supposing that the degree of love be 

T rhTr} , a r p r art thc Sacram ents. — 3. Life by 1 >. Ccpari, S. J. 

4- L Office ttupnsi; (Euvres computes. Paris, 1836, t. XI, p. 39. — 5. Ps. 


THE OPUS DEI, DIVINE PRAISE 


301 



dignitm el juslum est, aequum el salulare, nos tibi semper el 
ubique gratias agere 1 . 

Now, in creation, there are many beings who do not know 
God. They assuredly praise Him after their manner by the 
simple fact of their obedience to the laws that He ordained 
for them on their coming forth from nothingness : Cadi 
enarrant gloriam Dei et opera manuum ejus annunliat firma- 
menlum 2 . However the heavens do not know their own 
canticle, anymore than they know their Creator. Whence is 
the song of inanimate creation to take life ? Upon our own 
lips, the lips of humanity. Hear what Bossuet so admirably 
says ; the text is rather long but it renders the idea very 
clearly. " The inanimate creature cannot see, it is seen ; 
it cannot love, it urges us to do so ; and this God Whom 
it knows not, it does not allow us to ignore. Thus imper- 
fectly and in its own manner it glorifies the Heavenly Father. 
But in order that it may consummate its adoration, man 
must be its mediator. He must lend a voice, an understand- 
ing, and a heart burning with love, to all visible nature that 
it may love, in man and through him, the invisible beauty 
of the Creator. This is why he is placed in the midst of the 
world, himself the world in brief... a great world in the 
little world, because although the world contains him, he 
has a mind and a heart greater than the world ; in order 
that contemplating the whole universe and gathering it up 
in himself, he may offer, sanctify, and consecrate it to the 
Living God 3 . ’’ 

We acquit ourselves of this sublime r61e each day at the 
Divine Office. The Church wills that every creature should 
take life upon the lips of the priest or religious, so that 
every creature may praise its Lord : Benedicite omnia opera 
Domini Domino, laudale et super exaltate euin in saecula 4 . 

Upon our lips as in the Word, in ipso vita erat, all these 
creatures become animate that they may sing the Creator s 
perfections. “ Come, ” we say to all these creatures, come ; 
you know not God, but you may know Him through the 
medium of my understanding, and sing to Him through my 
lips. Come, sun, moon, stars that He has sown in the 
firmament ; come, cold and light, mountains and valleys, 
seas and rivers, plants and flowers, come and magnify Him 
Who created you. 0 my God I love Thee so much that X 


i. Preface of the Mass. — 2. Ps. xvm, 2. — -3. Sermon tor the Font of the 
Annunciation, 1662. 3 rd point. The great orator has taken up t lclea g 
and developed it in his Sermon on the worship due to God, Apnl - ♦ 

— 4. Canticle for Sunday Lauds ; Dan. hi, 57 * 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



302 


would have the whole earth adore and praise Thee ” : Omnis 
terra adorct Te et psallat Tibi 1 ! Through our lips, all the 
praise of creation rises up to God. 

It rises up to Him because Christ, the Divine Word, makes 
His own this praise which we, guided by the Church, offer to 
Him. Man is the mediator of creation ; but, says Bossuet 
again 2 , man himself needs a mediator and this Mediator 
is Christ the Word Incarnate. We lend our lips to Christ, 
so that, through Him, our praise may be accepted in the 
Bosom of the Father : Per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso est 
tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti in unitate Spiritus sancti, omnis 
honor et gloria 3 . All things are ours, and we are Christ’s, 
and Christ is His Father’s : Omnia veslra sunt, vos autem 
Christi, Chrislus autem Dei*. “ Rejoice, 0 human nature, 
thou lendest thy heart to the visible world that it may love 
its Almighty Creator, and Jesus Christ lends thee His own 
Heart wherewith thou mayest worthily love the One Who 
can only be worthily loved by another Himself 6 . ’’ 

Through the Divine Praise, we associate creation and 
ourselves, as intimately as possible, with the eternal praise 
that the Word gives to His Father. This participation in 
the eternal, thrice-holy canticle is realised above all in the 
doxology of the Gloria, repeated at the end of each psalm, 
and again in many other parts of the Office. As we bow down 
to give “ glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the 
Holy Ghost ” we unite ourselves to that ineffable glory 
that the Holy Trinity finds in Itself from all eternity : Sicut 
erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. 
It is like the echo of the infinite mutual complacency of the 
Divine Persons in the plenitude and bliss of their adorable 
fellowship. 

What work equals this in greatness ? What work is more 
pleasing to God ? None ; let us be deeply convinced of this. 
The Opus Dei is what is most precious in the inheritance 
of our Order : Funcs ceciderunt mihi in praeclaris, elenitn 
hereditas mea praeclara est mihi 5 . There are no other hours 
when we can do more for God’s glory than those we spend 
in choir, in union with the Divine Word praising His Father ; 
pernoctans in oralione Dei 7 . There is no work more pleasing 
to the Father than that whereby we join, in order to glorify 
Him, in the canticle sung in sinu Patris by “ the Son of 
His love 8 . There is no work that better pleases the Son 
than this which we borrow from Him and that is like the 


M J- Ps - L \V- ~ 2. Continuation of passage quoted. — 3. Canon of the 
22 ' 23 ' ~ 5 ' Bossuet, ibid. — 6. Ps. xv, 6. — 7. Luc. vt, 

*2. ~ o. LOli I, I3.I 


THE OPUS DEI, DIVINE PRAISE 


303 


extension of His very essence as the Word, the splendour of 
infinite glory. Neither is there any work that glorifies the 
Spirit more : for by the formulas that He has Himself inspired, 
we express our love under its most delicate forms, admiration 
continually renewed, and unending complacency. Gloria 
Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto. 

When this work is performed with all the faith, all the 
heart-felt confidence and all the love whereof our soul is 
capable, it surpasses every other work, and therefore our 
great Patriarch “ filled with the spirit of all the just 1 , ” 
wishes nothing to rank before this work : Nihil Operi Dei 
praeponatur 2 ; without being exclusive.it comes before every- 
thing with us. Although we are not Canons Regular, we 
cannot put this work in the second place, because it concerns 
God directly and we came to the monastery especially to 
seek God. Ardent love of the Divine Praise is one of the 
most indubitable signs that we “ are truly seeking God ” : 
Si revera Deurn quaerit... si sollicllus est ad opus Dei 3 . 

V. 

What further renders the Divine Praise extremely pleasing 
to God is that it constitutes a homage of those virtues of 
faith, hope and love which are the specific virtues of our 
state as children of God. _ 

Everything here — let us repeat it — is to be judged 
from the point of view of faith. To gather together several 
hours day by day to praise God is a homage of our faith , 
we thereby confess and proclaim that this Unseen God is 
alone worthy of adoration and praise. The acts of reverence, 
thanksgiving and complacency that we accomplish m the 
course of this work consecrated solely to extolling God, are, 
above all, acts of faith. Faith alone gives its meaning o 
the Divine Office. Those whose faith is null, pity men who 
pass a part of their life in chanting God s praises , they o 
not comprehend how people can, at certain hours, occupy 
themselves solely with the Infinite Being: Ut quid per 1 
haec \ Where faith is weak, the Divine Office is undervalued 
and other works are preferred before it. Souls W ic > 
that of our Blessed, Patriarch are bathed in the. deifying 
light 6 ” of faith, give the first place to Divine Praise :, they 
do so at least in their estimation, even if, m conseq 
their state in life, they cannot devote themselves to it. 
Divine Praise becomes uninterrupted when 

I. S. Greg. Dialog. Lib. n, c. viii. — 2. Ruie, cb. xun. — 3- 1 * c * 

Lvm. — 4. Matth. xxvi, 8. — 5- Prologue of the Kuie. 



304 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

light of vision succeeds the obscure light of faith : Sint 
fine laudani. 

In the second place, our praise is a homage of hope, 
During the divine psalmody we rest upon the infinite merits 
of Christ Jesus. We hope for everything from the satisfac- 
tions of our Divine High Priest. In fact no prayer of the 
Office terminates without explicitly seeking its support in 
Our Lord : Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum. We 
make our claim through this All-Powerful Mediator Who 
“ lives and reigns for ever with the Father, ” and pleads 
with Him unceasingly in order to render Him propitious to 
us : Semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis 1 . 

In leaving everything in order to hasten to the choir, it 
is like saying to God : “ There is nothing of which I am 
more certain than of Thy goodness ; I come to praise 
and bless Thee, leaving in Thy hands the care of all the 
rest. I have nothing more at heart than to praise Thee, 
being persuaded that if I leave every other work for 
this, Thou wilt know how to' take better care than I could 
do of my dearest interests ; I want only to think of Thee, 
knowing that Thou wilt think of me. ” To go to the choir 
every day, and several times a day, in this disposition of 
soul ; to put in practice the “ one thing necessary ”, Unum 
est necessarium 2 , to lay aside all our cares, all that regards 
our personal work, so as to occupy ourselves during several 
hours with Him alone, what an evident proof of our absolute 
confidence in Him ! 

Finally, our praise contains above all a homage of love. 
In it every form of love finds expression, especially in the 
Psalms which form the most considerable element of the 
Divine Office. Admiration, complacency, delight, the love 
of benevolence, contrite love, grateful love, all these affections 
find a place in an almost uninterrupted manner. Love 
confesses, admires, exalts the Divine perfections. Compla- 
cency whereby we rejoice in the joy and beatitude of the 
peison beloved is one of the purest and most perfect forms 
of love. . When we truly love, we find no sweeter joy than 
in praising and glorifying. St. Francis of Assisi composing 
ms Canticle, St. Teresa writing her . " Exclamations, ” 
such is the soul overflowing with love, and seeking to express 
* s a * so ^ ove that transported the Psalmist. 
With the sacred writer, the soul passes in review all the Divine 

i. Hebr, vh, 25. — 2. Luc. x, 42. 


THE OPUS DEI, DIVINE PRAISE 


305 


perfections in order to exalt them: Exaltar e Domine, in 
virtute tua, cantabinms el psallemus virtutes iuas ... 1 Narrabo 
omnia mirabilia tua 2 . "Exalt ye the Lord our God, and 
adore His footstool, for it is holy ” : Exaltate Dominum 
Dettm nostrum... quoniam Sanclus Dominus Deus nosier 3 . 

« Justice shall walk before Him 4 ; the searcher of hearts 
and reins is God 5 . ” “ The mercies of the Lord I will sing 

for ever 6 . ” “ 0 Lord God of hosts, who is like to Thee ? 

Thou art mighty 0 Lord, and Thy truth is round about 
Thee 7 . ” “ How great are Thy works, 0 Lord ? Thou hast 

made all things in wisdom ” : Quam magnificala sunt opera 
tua, Domine, omnia in sapienlia jecisli 8 . Then the soul 
turns to God to express its grateful love : “ I will sing to 
the Lord Who giveth me good things ’’ : Cantabo Domino 
qui bona tribuit rnihi 0 . “Bless the Lord, 0 my soul: and 
let all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the 
Lord, O my soul, and never forget all He hath done for 
thee. Who forgiveth all thy iniquities ; Who healeth all 
thy diseases. Who redeemeth thy life from destruction . 
Who crowneth thee with mercy and compassion, Who satis- 
fieth thy desire with good things. ” Then feeling incapable 
of glorifying God as He should be glorified, the soul invites 
the Angels to unite in praising Him : Benedicite Domino omnes 
Angcli ejus, benedicite omnes virtutes ejus 10 . At other times, 
together with the sacred singer, the soul convokes peopes 
and nations to join in this praise : Regna terrae cantaleUeo , , 
for, " from the rising of the sun until the going °™,°_ 
the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise , a 
able... in the whole earth 13 . ” Yet again, the sou p - 
out its joy and gladness before God in being admi e 
praise Him : Exsultabunt labia mea cum cantavero tib ••• “ 

labiis exsultationis laudabit os meum . Tins joy is so P 
and overflowing that the soul asks God for power to praise 
Him unceasingly : Repleatur os meum lands ut cantem glonam 
tuam... la Psallam Deo meo quamdiu fuero . 

Where could love find accents as burning and eve F “ 
these ? At every instant in the psalms this , • 

fested and diffused. A truly extraordinary c * 
of Divine Goodness has more than once shown ^ 

extent’ these praises are agreeable to God. _ e s ^ 

deigning with infinite kindness to teach igno 


1. Ps. XX, 14. — 2. Ibid, ix, 2. — 3 - Ibid- MCV ‘ n J_ 5 ’ ®Thid 4 '9^— 8. Ibid. 
14- — 5 - Ibid, vn, 10. — C. ibid, lxxxvii 1 , 1. 7 . __ Ibidi j. x vii, 

cm, 24. — 9. Ibid, xii, 6. — 10. Ibid, cii, I 5 i • — 15. ibid. 

33 . - 12. Ibid, cxii, 3. - 13 . Ibid, vm, ‘- - H. Ib-d. 1*. - 3 - 
lxii, 6. — 16. Ibid. LXX, 8. — 17 - Ibid, cxliv, - 



306 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

Latin tongue, so that having this knowledge they may be 
able to penetrate into the meaning of the sacred texts. 

•A like trait is met with in the life of a certain Benedictine 
nun, the Blessed Bonomo. “ Often, during her ecstasies, ” 
says a biographer, "she was heard reciting the Divine 
Office ; but a curious thing was that she pronounced the 
verses alternatively, as if the inhabitants of Heaven were 
repeating the psalms with her ;she recited the whole without 
omitting a single syllable, whatever was the Office of the 
day 1 .” 

Then, do not let ns forget that in the Divine Office the soul 
exalts these perfections as is befitting, in a manner truly 
worthy of God, a manner which He has Himself ordained. 
Left to ourselves, we could not render due homage to each 
Divine attribute ; God alone can tell us how we can and 
ought to praise Him ; God alone knows how worthy He is 
of being magnified, blessed, glorified ; and it is the Holy 
Spirit, the Spirit of Love, Who places upon our lips the very 
formulas we are to use in singing to God. These praises, 
in their origin, are not of earth, they come to us from Heaven, 
from the innermost depths of the Godhead and of Love. 
And when we appropriate them to ourselves with faith, 
above all when we recite or sing them in union with the 
Divine Word, our canticle becomes infinitely pleasing to God, 
because it is presented to Him by the Word in person. 

St. Gertrude had the revelation of this truth in one of 
her visions. As Vespers were being intoned on the Feast 
of the Holy Trinity, Christ, holding His Heart in His hands 
like a melodious lyre, presented it to the glorious Trinity. 
Upon this lyre the fervour of souls and all the words of the 
sacred canticles resounded before the Lord in a hymn of 
heavenly delight 2 . 

VI. 


One circumstance often occurs in our monastic life to 
enhance further this homage of love : it is when we have to 
offer it to the Lord in suffering. 


i. Dom du Bourg. Unc extatique iu XVII r - siicle, la Bse Bonomo, inoniale 
binddiciine, p. n and 52. We likewise see S l Catherine of Siena asking Our 
Lord to teach her to read in order to be able to chant the Psalms and praises 
of God during the Canonical Hours. Often, too, Our Lord walked up and down 
with her in her cell and recited the Office with the Saint. It was as two 
religious might have done. Life Bl. Raymund of Capua. — 2. The Herald 
of Divine Love. Bin iv, eh. 4 t . s l Gertrude often expresses this idea. See 
Ibid. Bk. II, ch,.23 ; Bk. Ilf, ch. 25 ; Bk. IV, ch. 48 and 51 : cf. Dolan, St Get' 
trude the Great. Ch. 11. The Divine Office. 


THE OPUS DEI, DIVINE PRAISE 


307 

Suffering gives to love a special splendour and a singular 
value ; to love God in suffering is truly the height of self- 
oblation ; our Divine Saviour loved His Father with immense • 
love at each instant of His life, but this love shone out in an 
incomparable way during His Passion, when Christ endured 
His unutterable sufferings for love of His Father : Ut cognoscat 
mundus quia did go Pair cm'. - 

The Divine Office can become, and even frequently does 
become for certain souls, a veritable sacrifice. In this case 
the expression Sacrificium laudis 2 truly takes on a special 
fulness of meaning. This can happen in various ways ; to 
begin with we must not spare ourselves ; we must give all 
the energy we have. To use our voice unsparingly, to submit 
to the manifold and varied details of the ceremonial, 
willingly to accept and follow the indications of the cantor, 
even when our opinion differs from his on such and such a 
point of musical interpretation : all this requires continual 
attention. We must keep our imagination from wandering, 
and this requires generosity. Frequently renewed efforts 
are needed to overcome our natural apathy or levity, 
these are so many sacrifices pleasing to God. 

Next come the sufierings that the common life necessarily 
entails. Certainly common life is a stimulus ; the fact o 
being together in our stalls excites fervour, but it allows 
also of a number of inevitable small sacrifices, often repe . 
Sunns homines fragiles... qni fachmt mvicem * as ; 

The possibility of tiny annoyances jarnng upon us is inherent 

to our poor human nature; this is true even o p J , 
common. A ceremony awkwardly performed, fa se m 
of the choir, a melody badly rendered, discord in y 
with those around us, all this can set our nerve ^ , 8 ’ 

especially when, in addition, fatigue or an ai g ... 

health weighs upon the body and superexcites e • 

When we have to hymn God’s glory under these . couffihons 

there is room for a real sacrifice, a veritable immolation. 

In Heaven, when we possess God, we shal P j n 

the eternal harmony of overflowing gladness , nraise 

the valley of tears, it may happen that we , 0 j 
Him in suffering; but our sufferings add a 
love to our praise, and prove the sincerity Qn j v 

after God 4 . Jesus sang the praises of His Father n y 


c Au crus tin. Scnno lxix, c. 

1. Joan, xiv, 31. — 2. Ps. xlix, 23. . 3- ; . * quantum possumus , 

x. P. L. 38, 440. — 4. Lattdemus et moao Vovnnu, h Qndum f enem us : 
mixtis gemiiibus; quia laudando sola ctpura et aelsrna 

cum tenuenmus, subtraheiur otnnts gemttus et f^ema * 1109. 

laudatio. S. Augustin. Enarr. in Psalm . lxxxvi, .9* 




CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



308 

upon Thabor, but on the Cross. St. Augustine says 
explicitly 1 that upon Golgotha Our Lord recited the Psalm 
that begins with these words : Dens, Deus mens respice in me: 
quare me dereliquisti 2 . This striking Messianic psalm 
expressed not only the circumstances of the Passion, but 
also the affections of Our Blessed Saviour’s soul. In the 
darkness of Calvary, in the midst of indescribable tortures, 
Christ Jesus recited " the Office, ” and, at that moment* 
because He was suffering, he gave, much more than when 
on Thabor, infinite glory to His Father. 

We too, following His example, must praise God, not only 
when the Holy Spirit replenishes us with His consolations, 
but likewise when we suffer. Loving souls follow Jesus 
everywhere, as well and even more willingly to Golgotha as 
to the Mount of the Transfiguration. Who remained at the 
foot of the Cross with Jesus ? His Virgin-Mother who loved 
Him with a love into which not the least self-seeking entered ; 
Magdalen whom Jesus had forgiven much because she loved 
much ; St. John who possessed the secrets' of the Divine 
Heart. These three stayed there near to Jesus; they 
remained " in fheir stalls ” when the soul of Christ, the 
supreme High Priest, sang its sorrowful canticle for the 
world’s salvation. 1 The other Apostles, Peter himself, who 
had so loudly protested his love, would willingly have remain- 
ed on Thabor, where it was good to be : Bonum est nos hie 
esse: faciamus hie tria tabcrnacula 3 , but not at the foot of 
the Cross. 

Christ Jesus Who loves us. Who has chosen us in preference 
to so many others to associate us in His work of praise, 
allows us sometimes to feel, by the sufferings that pr a y er 
in common brings with it, by the desolations and aridities, 
to which it may subject us,’ what it is to chant the Office 
with Him on Calvary. If really you seek God solely, tna 
is to say His Holy Will, and not His consolations, P rove 1 
by continuing even then, and even especially at such momen . 
to sing exiOTO corde veslro ; do not run away, stay with u 
as long as He will have it so, near the Cross. The Oross 
raised, as a reminder, upon the altar that the choir surrou • 
Let us then repeat with the Psalmist : Benedicam ^ 
in omni tempore, semper laus ejus in ore meo . ■ . 

bless the Lord at all times ; Plis praise shall be a wa J‘\ ss 
my mouth. ” Whether He fills my soul with the sweenw 

1. S. Augustin. Enarr. in Psuhn t-xxxv, c. I. — 2. Ps. XXI. 3 ‘* 

XVII, 4. — 4. Ps. XXXIII, 2 . 


! 


THE OPUS DEI, DIVINE PRAISE 309 

of His Spirit of Love, or leaves it like a desert land where 
there is no water 1 , I will ever praise Him with all the energy 
of my heart, because He is my God, my Lord and my King, 
and is worthy of all praise : Exaltabo ie, Deus mens Rex 
et benedicam nomini luo 2 , confiiebor tibi Domine Deus mens 
in toto corde meo, et glorificabo nomen tuum in aelernmn 3 . 


Recited in these dispositions, the Divine Office becomes 
the sacrificium landis pre-eminently, the most agreeable 
sacrifice to God, because, united to Christ’s Sacrifice, it 
constitutes the most perfect homage that the creature can 
offer Him : Sacrificium laudis honorificabit me. Moreover, 
God not allowing Himself to be out-done in generosity, the 
same sacrifice of praise becomes for the one who accomplishes 
it the way of salvation and beatitude : Et illic iter quo osten- 
dam illi salutare Dei i . 

1. Ps. lxii, 3. - 2. Ibid, cxliv, 1. - 3. Ibid, lxxxv, 12. - 4 - Ibid, 
xux, 23. 




XIV. — THE OPUS DEI, Means of Union with God. 


Summary. — Divine praise, the Opus Dei, is likewise a means of union 
with God and of sanctification. — I. It furnishes excellent 
forms of prayer and impetration. — II. It provides oppor- 
tunities of practising thevirtues well. — III. It constitutes 
the best manner of being made one with Christ. Dispositions 
in which the Divine Office ought to be accomplished : immediate 
preparation ; intentions to be formulated. — V. Attitude of 
the soul during the Divine Office : to pray worthily, with 
attention, and devotion. — VI. Final exhortation. 

T f the Opus Dei were presented exclusively as a homage 
rendered to the Divine perfections in union with Christ 
Jesus, it would already, and on this ground, eminently 
merit all our fervour. In the last conference we tried to show 
what a lofty work the Divine praise constitutes ; it is the 
Opus Dei by excellence, the voice of the Church addressing 
herself officially to the Father, being entitled, as Christ’s 
Bride, to offer Him her adorations ; it is the homage of a 
soul wherein faith is active, hope assured and love ardent. 
It is for these reasons that liturgical prayer is so pleasing 
to God : Laudabo nomcn Dei cum cantico, et placebit Deo 
super vitulum novellum 1 . 

Worship is also a conversation, an exchange ; man, being 
full of needs, asks at the same time that he adores ; and 
God gives more than He receives. This is why the Opus 
Dei is an abundant source of precious graces for the soul. 
After having said in the Psalm, that the sacrifice of praise 
is pleasing to Him, God, Who is magnificence itself and ever 
bestows the hundredfold, adds that this sacrifice becomes 
for him who offers it, a way of salvation : Et illic iter quo 
ostendam illi salutare Dei. It is impossible indeed for a 
soul to come near to God, to come before Him in the name 
of His Son Jesus, and, finding strength in the infinite merits 
of this supreme High Priest, to offer unceasing homage to 
God, without the Father delighting in this soul and pouring 
special graces upon it. When He sees in us “ the Son of 
His love 2 , " — and He sees Him during the Divine Office 
celebrated in the aforesaid dispositions — the Father from 
Whom comes down “ every perfect gift 3 , " cannot but 

x. Ps. LXVIII, 31-32. — 2. Col. 1, 13. — 3. Jac. 1, 17. 


THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 3II 

enrich us with heavenly favours. In one of her collects, 
Christ’s Bride herself logically links together these two 
aspects of the Divine Office : " Grant, 0 Lord, to the people 
consecrated to Thee to find the source of increase in the 
affections of pious devotion, that, being taught by the 
sacred rites, they may be filled with favours so much the 
more precious, according as they become more pleasing to 
Thy Divine Majesty 1 ." God, being moreover the first Author 
of our sanctification, the daily and repeated contact that 
we have with Him in the Divine Praise veritably constitutes 
for us an inexhaustible principle of union and holiness. 

This principle is true for every soul, even for those of 
simple Christians; the faithful who, although in a more 
restricted manner, take part in Divine worship with faith 
and devotion, imbibe the Christian spirit as from its fount. 
This is what Pius X, of holy memory has so explicitly said : 
" The active participation of the faithful in the sacred mys- 
teries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church 
is the first and indispensable source whence is drawn the 

true Christian spirit 2 . " . . . , . , 

But is it not manifest that this truth is to be applied 
still more appropriately to those who, like us, have the 
happiness of the monastic vocation ? Besides the means 
of sanctification that are common to all the members o 
Christ’s Mystical Body, such as- the Sacraments, there exists, 
so to speak, in each Order, a special means corresponding to 
its institution and to which souls belonging to this Orde: 
ought preferably to be attached, so as to amve at perfection. 
Upon Christian predestination, God has engrafted for us 
the Benedictine predestination ; we must not think nideecl 
that God has left our monastic vocation to chance . every 
religious vocation, constituting a signal grace, is e , 

the infinite and privileged love which Christ Jesus i bears Ho 
a soul : Intuitus eum dilexit eum ; and it is only by an act 
of His sovereign and Divine will that the M ord gi _ ® s 
immense grace We definitely responded to this cal on he 
day of our profession ; but do not let us lose : sight of the 
fact that we have made profession f “ft** 

S.P.N. Bensdicti A The particular character like the si gu! 
splendour of the holiness that God expects of us, should be 
derived from the monastic code of our grea 

i. Proficiat, qiiaesumus, Domine, plcbs tibi ' tanto 

ill sacris actionibus -erudite, Qv AN ™ “W p ass j 0 n \Veck. — 2. Mote propria 
donis I'OTiomnus AUGEATUR (Satuiday m P^s.o^Weuc Profes- 

01 Nov. 22 nd . 1903. — 3- Marc, x, 21. — 4- ceremumai 
sion. 



312 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

is not in following the Rule of St. Augustine or the institutions 
of the Carthusians, however great and lofty they be, that 
we shall arrive at the perfection that Christ demands of 
us. To a particular vocation, a special perfection-, or rather 
a special form of holiness, ought to respond. . . 

Now our Holy Father ordains that among all the positive 1 
works of piety that his monks are to perform, none is to take 
precedence of the Divine Office : Nihil Operi Dei fraeponatur 2 .. 
Doubtless, it is right to repeat that this work is not in our 
case exclusive of the others ; but being the one which, in 
the Rule of St. Benedict, is given the first place, it becomes 
by that fact, for us monks, a very sure and authentic means 
of attaining that form of perfection which God willed for us 
when He called us to the cloister. Thus if it is averred that 
we are pleasing to God in the measure that we give our- 
selves up to this work, it will not be less truly averred that 
the Divine Praise constitutes one of the most infallible means 
of realising in ourselves the eternal and special idea that 
God has of our perfection. 

Let us then explain how the Divine Office is a means of 
union with God and of sanctification ; it will next remain 
for us to point out the requisite conditions in order that 
this means may produce all its fruits in our souls. 

I.. 

One of the most important truths of the spiritual life is 
incontestably the necessity of prayer for obtaining the Divine 
help : “ Ask, ” said Our Lord, “ and it shall be given you ; 
seek, and you shall find : knock, and it shall be opened 
to you 3 . " Our needs are immense, and without Christ’s 
grace we can do nothing. How are we to obtain Christ’s 
help ? By prayer : Petite et accipietis 4 ; omnis enim qui petit, 
accipit 5 . Now, the Divine Office contains wonderful suppli- 
cations as pressing as they are varied. Undoubtedly, as 
we have seen, it is first and before all a Divine Praise, the 
cry of the soul that, full of faith and love, admires and 
magnifies God’s perfections : Magnus Dominus et laudabilis 
nimis 6 . We do not come to the choir primarily to beg ; 
no ; we come to praise God, to glorify Him, to think upon 
His glory, to lend material creation our lips with which to 
sing, and our heart with which to love God : The first and 

i. " Positive " in opposition to works of a rather " negative ’’ character, 
such as the exercise of the virtues of poverty, humility, etc., which serve 
above all to remove obstacles. — 2. Rule, ch. xuii. — 3. Matth. vn, 7. — 
4- Joan, xvi, 24. — 5: Luc. xi, 10. — 6. Ps. lviiix, 2. 



THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 3 x 3 


direct end of the Divine Office is the glory of the Creator : 
Domine, Dominus nosier, quant admirabile est nomen tmim 
in universa terra 1 ! The dominant idea of the Opus Dei is 
drawn from these words of the Psalmist, as it is summed 
up in the ever recurring doxology of the Gloria. 

But the Divine Office contains, however, numberless forms 
of prayer and supplication. The psalms, for example, ex- 
press not only admiration, joy, exultation of soul in presence 
of God’s admirable perfections; all the needs of the soul are 
also found therein set forth as it were in God’s sight. We 
can, with the Psalmist, beseech forgiveness of our sins: 
" Have mercy on me, 0 God, according to Thy great mercy. 
And according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot 
out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity, 
and cleanse me from my sin... Turn- away Thy face from 
my sins, and blot out all my iniquities... Cast me not away 
from Thy face ; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me 2 . 
The sins of my youth and my ignorances do not remember : 
Delicta juventutis meae et ignorantias meas ne memmens ; 
ah occultis meis munda me, et ab aliems parce servo tuo . 
Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, 0 Lord... if Thou, 
O Lord, wilt mark iniquities, Lord who shall stand. Hope, 
therefore, O my soul, hope in Thy Lord, for His Redemption 
is abundant, and He shall redeem thee from all l thy ^ ini- 
quities : Et copiosa apud eum redemption Thou shalt wash 
me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. To my hearing 


Thou shalt give joy and gladness : and the bones 
been humbled shall rejoice... Restoreuntomethejoy of 
Thy salvation, and strengthen me with a 
0 Lord, Thou wilt open my lips : and my mouth shall dec 

Th When al the soul is in trouble, in distress, when i beset^ by 
temptation, when sadness overpowers it;when ^“urageme _ 
takes possession of it, it has but to open the inspired ® ook 0 
“ 0 God come to my assistance ; 0 L^d jnake haste to 
help me’. Why, 0 Lord, are they multiplied that afflict 
me ? many are they who rise up again • 
to my soul ! There is no salvation for him in teU J^t 

Thou! 0 Lord art my Why art 

up of my head... Arise, 0 Lord, s rii^ouiet me ? 

thou sad, 0 my soul ? .and why dost thou 

Hope in God, for I will still give praise • 

of my 1 countenance, and my G od And fct ^ ^ ^ 

i. Ps. vni, 2 . — 2 . Ibid. L, 3 - 4 , ii.ja. 17 . — 7- Ibid- 

13-14. — 5- Ibid, cxxix, 1 , 3. 5-8. TT.?- - ’ * 

Mix, 2 . —8. Ibid, in, 3-4, 7- - 9- I bld - XLB ' 5 ’ 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



314 

be glad that hope in Thee... O Lord, Thou hast crowned 
us, as with a shield of Thy good will " : El laetentur omnes 
gui sperant in te... Scuto bonae voluntatis iuae coronasti nos 1 . 
“ In the Lord I put my trust, how then do you say to my 
soul : Get thee away from l\ence to the mountain 2 ? Hear, 
O Lord, the voice of my supplication, when I pray to Thee ; 
when I lift up my hands to Thy holy temple... Save, 0 Lord, 
Thy people, and bless Thy inheritance : and rule them and 
exalt them for ever 3 . " 

Does the soul need light ? strength ? courage ? Words 
wherewith to invoke God flow endlessly to our lips : “ My 
soul is as earth without water unto Thee 4 . Send forth 
Thy light and Thy truth, they have conducted me, and 
brought me unto Thy holy hill, and into Thy tabernacles. 
And I will go to the altar of God : to God Who giveth joy 
to my youth. To Thee, 0 God my God I will give praise 
upon the harp ” : Confilebor tibi in ciihara Deus, Dcus meus 6 . 

Then, above all, the holy longings of the soul to attain 
one day to God rise ardently from the sacred poesy, the 
expression of its thirst for the divine meeting : “ For what 
have I in Heaven ? and besides Thee what do I desire 
upon earth ?... Thou art the God of my heart, and the 
God that is my portion for ever ’’ : Quid mihi est in caelo et, 
a te, quid volui super terram “As the hart panteth 
after the fountains of water ; so my soul panteth after 
Thee... when shall I come and appear before the face of 
God 7 ? I shall be satisfied when Thy glory shall appear ” : 
Satiabor cum apparuerit gloria tua B l Thus, the soul’s most 
intense desires, its deepest aspirations, its most pressing 
and extensive needs find wonderful forms of expression fur- 
nished by the Holy Spirit. And each soul can appropriate 
to itself these forms as if they had been made for itself 
alone. 

To the inspired texts are to be added the "Collects”, 
the prayers composed by the Church herself, where are daily 
gathered up the supplications that the Bride of Jesus offers 
in her children’s name, in union with her Divine Spouse. 
They are ordinarily very concise, but contain, in their brevity, 
the true pith of doctrine. As you know their structure is 
almost always the same : the Church addresses her homage 
to the power and goodness of the Eternal Father, then a 
petition in correlation with the Feast of the day, the whole 

1. Ps. v, 12-13. — z. Ibid, x, 2. — 3. Ibid, xxvii, 2, 9. — 4. Ibid, cxlij, 
5* Ibid, xlii, 3-4. — 6. Ibid, xlxii. 25*26. — 7. Ibid, xli, 2-3. — 8* 
Ibid, xvi, 15. 1 


THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 315 

under a condensed, but often profound form ; finally, the 
invoking of the infinite merits of Christ Jesus, the Beloved 
Son, equal to His Father, Who lives and reigns with Him 
and the Spirit, in the heavens : Per Dominum nostrum 
Jesum Christum Filium luum, qul tecum vivum et regnat... 


How should a like prayer fail to be powerful with God ? 
How could God refuse His grace to whomsoever beseeches 
Him according to the words He Himself has inspired 1 ? 
God loves all that comes from Himself or from His Son, 
and so this prayer which we address to Him in the name 
of His Son is most pleasing to Him, and efficacious for us : 
Pater ego sciebam quia semper me audis 2 

On this head, the Divine Office possesses great power of 
sanctification. I am certain that a monk who gives himself 
up to it with devotion cannot fail to obtain from it an 
abundance of divine help for every circumstance of his life. 
This is so much the more tme in that the devout recitation 
of the Office familiarises us with these holy forms of prayer : 
spontaneously then, in the course of the day, these arise 
again from his soul under the form of ” ejaculatory ” prayers, 
short but ardent aspirations, whereby the soul is lifted up 
to God to remain united to Him. St. Catherine of Siena 
had a special devotion to the Deus, in adjutorium meum inten- 
ds; she often repeated it during the day 3 . So many verses 
of the Psalms, after having served us in choir can thus 
become, outside the Divine Office, bonds of union between 
God and ourselves, uprisings from the heart to beseech His 
help or to tell Him that it is our will never to turn away 
from Him : “ It is good for me to adhere to my God, to put 
my hope in the Lord God 4 . Preserve me, 0 Lord, for I have 
put my trust in Thee. I have said to the Lord, Thou art 
my God 6 . When my strength shall fail, do not Thou forsake 
me 0 . , My soul hath coveted to long for Thy justification, 
at all times... I have stuck to Thy testimonies, O Lord, 
put me not to shame 7 . ” . 

Each soul can thus choose from among so many formulas 
those which most aptly express its innermost aspirations, 
those which best help it to remain united to Our Lord. 
Often it has no need to seek them. When the Divine Office 
is recited with fervour, it is the Holy Spirit Who throws 
His Divine light upon some text of the Psalms or of the 


1. We evidently do not give the word, t ^ 0m f_ 5 “ s ? o ” hen 

concerns the elements, of diverse origin, of the Divine Offic . . J •> * > 

42. — 3. Life by Drane, part., ch. v. — 2. — 4 - Ps- txm, =»• — 5 - rs. xv, 
1-2. — 6. Ps. L-xx, 9. — 7. Ps. cxvm, 20, 31- 


316 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

Liturgy ; this text then particularly strikes the soul, and by 
this vivid, penetrating and effectual action of the Spirit 
of Jesus, it hereafter becomes a principle of light and joy, 
and like a wellspring of living water where the soul may 
constantly allay its thirst, renew its strength, and find the 
secret of patience and inward gladness : Psallerium mettm, 
gaudium meum 1 . 

II. 

It is not only in itself and directly that the Divine Office 
is a means of sanctification ; it also gives us the occasion of 
practising many virtues several times a day. Now this 
practice, according to the Council of Trent 2 , is a source of 
union with God and of progress in perfection. 

When a soul is in God’s friendship, each act of virtue it 
makes increases grace in it, and this is above all true of 
charity which is the queen of every virtue. Now, the Divine 
Office recited with fervour, is a continual exercise of the 
most varied virtues. We saw, in the last conference, the 
frequency with which acts of faith, hope, and charity occur 
in the course of the Divine Office ; charity especially shines 
out in it ; it finds the purest and most perfect expression in 
the Opus Dei, namely, complacency in God ; and this com- 
placency is manifested at almost each moment in accents of 
admiration and joy 3 . When, for example, we have recited 
Matins and Lauds with devotion, we have made numerous 
acts of perfect. love. 


To the theological virtues, which are the specific virtues of 
our state of children of God, must be joined the virtue of 
religion. Religion has no purer manifestation than the 
Divine Office gravitating around the Eucharistic Sacrifice 
which is its crown. The Divine Praise encompassing the 
altar, where the holy oblation is offered, is the purest 
expression of the virtue of religion ; it is also the most 
pleasing to God, because this expression is determined by 
the Ploly Spirit and by the Church, Christ’s Bride ; worship 
finds its plenitude in the Divine Office * 


i. S. Augustin. Enarrat. in Psalm. 137, n. 3, P. L. 37, col. 1775.— 2. Sess. 
Xiv, c ', If" 11 - 3 " It is a great mistake to imagine that a sacrifice is only 

H^u?^iw a „ nd - agrC . Ca ?- e to lf it is sa< I and mortifying to nature. The 
fjP 4 /’, Blbl2 gives testimony that God receives flowers and fruits as well as 
Joy . as . as tears. There are certainly many tears in the 
t P ra,se Z’hich is named the Psalter, but how joy overflows in it 
and how often one urmade aware of a jubilant and ravished soul ! " Mgr. 

7/"V’ <r fy st " es . du Rosaire, I. pp. 80-81. — 4. Cf. Lottfn, 
L ame du suite, la vertu de religion. 


THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 317 

It is in the Divine Office too that we learn reverence towards 
God ; the Liturgy is the best school of respect ; all within 
it is regulated by the Church herself in view of magnifying 
God’s Sovereign Majesty. When the soul performs all the 
ceremonies, even the smallest, carefully and lovingly, it is 
gradually formed to that inward reverence which is, as we 
have said, the very root of humility. It is impossible for 
a monk to be devoutly assiduous at the " Work of God ” 
without gaining in a short time a great knowledge of the divine 
perfections, and without that respect and reverence springing 
up in his soul from this contemplation. 

We have likewise seen how the Divine Office is moreover 
a school where, on account of the common life, may be 
exercised the virtue of patience and self-forgetfulness. 

Thus the virtues most necessary to our state as children 
of God, faith and confidence, humility, love, and religion, 
find each day not only the means of being exercised, but of 
being maintained, and strengthened ; the Divine Office hence 
becomes an abundant source of holiness. 

* III. 


The sanctifying power of the Divine Office however goes 
further than this. Not content with being the best form 
of impetration for our spiritual necessities and giving 
us the opportunity of daily practising lofty virtues, this 
praise constitutes for us the best way of being made one 
with Christ 1 . We must never forget this capital truth of 
the spiritual life : all is summed up, for the monk as for the 
simple Christian, in being united, in faith and love to Christ 
Jesus in order to imitate Him. Christ being the very 
"form 2 ” of our predestination, is at the same time the 
ideal of all holiness for us. He is the centre of monasticism 
as of Christianity : to - contemplate Christ, to imitate Him, 
to unite our will to His will in order to please His Father, 
that is the sum total of all perfection. The Father has 
placed all things in His beloved Son ; we find in Him all 
the treasures of redemption Justification, wisdom, heavenly 
knowledge, sanctification ; for us everything lies in con- 
templating Him and drawing near to Him. For the thought 
of Jesus, the looking upon Jesus, are not only holy, but 
sanctifying. . 

And nowhere can we better contemplate Our Lord in His 

1. See a remarkable commentary on this thought in D. Festu \gtfzo. La 
lilurgic catholiquc, essai de synthise, eh. xm. La Lrlurgte comme source et cause 
de vie religieuse, pp. m, sq. — 2. Cf. Rom. vn, 29. 



318 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

Person and in His mysteries, than in following the liturgical 
cycle established bv the Church, His Bride, she herself guided 
in this by the Holy Spirit. From Advent to Pentecost, 
the liturgy is Christocentric ; in it all leads back to Christ, 
all converges towards Him; it is a representation, but a 
living representation of His mysteries : His Incarnation, His 
most sweet Nativity, His hidden life, His public life, His 
sorrowful Passion, the triumph of His Resurrection, His 
admirable Ascension ; the Mission of the Holy Spirit. The 
Church leads us by the hand in Jesus' footsteps ; we have 
only to listen, only to open the eyes of faith : we are 
following Jesus. 

The mysteries of Jesus thus contemplated with faith and 
love, give rise within us to the affections that we should 
have felt had we been present at the Birth of Jesus, had we 
followed Him to Egypt, been with Him at Nazareth, in 
His discourses, in the Garden of Gethsemani, upon the 
Way of Sorrows, and at Calvary ; as we should have felt 
if we had been present at His Resurrection, and Ascension A 
This is what \yas said by a holy Benedictine, Mother Delelofi : 
" At Christmastide, during all those solemnities of our Sa- 
viour's Birth, F received great favours ; His Majesty often 
gave me a vivid light so that I knew these divine mysteries 
as if they were then really taking place 2 . " 

Indeed, although Christ is no longer upon earth, although 
the historical reality of His mysteries has gone by. He ever 
remains our Head and the virtue of His actions and of His 
life is ever fruitful : Jesus Christus heri et hodie: ipse et in 
saecula A It is as the Head of the human race, and for 
the human race, that He has lived these mysteries : there- 
fore, simply by contemplating them with faith, the soul is 
moulded little by little upon Christ, its Ideal, and is gradually 
transformed into Him, by entering into the sentiments felt 
by Hi? Divine Heart when He lived each of His mysteries. 
Jesus lives the reality of His mysteries in us, and when 
we have faith, and rest lovingly united to Him, He draws 
us with Him, making us partakers of the virtue proper to 
each of these states. Each year, as the soul follows the 
Liturgical cycle, it shares ever more intimately in these 
mysteries, and is identified more and more with Christ, 
with His thoughts, His feelings. His life. Hoc enim sentite 
in vobis, quod et in Christo Jesu 4 . Gradually it is transformed 
into the likeness of the Divine Model ; not only because 

i. See the development of this idea in our work : Christ in His Mysteries, 
I st Conference : Christ's Mysteries are our mysteries. — 2. La Mire Jeanne 
Deleloe, p. 247, CoUection “ Pax — 3. Hebr. xm, 8. — 4. Philip. 11, 5. 


THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 319 

this Model is represented in each stage of His terrestrial 
existence, but above all because a divine virtue goes out 
from these mysteries to sanctify us, according to the measure 
of our faith, and to make of the soul the living reproduction 
of Him Who is our Elder Brother. Does not all our pre- 
destination, all our holiness consist in being made conform- 
able to Christ for the glory of His Father ? 

It is this custom of following, under the Church’s guidance, 
the mysteries of Jesus that gives to Benedictine spirituality 
such a specifically Christian character : the piety of the soul, 
traced upon the very piety of the Bride of Christ, becomes 
extremely lucid. It is a fact of experience that with souls, 
who say the Divine Office devoutly, who let themselves be 
replenished with the truths of the Psalms and follow Our 
Lord step by step in each of His mysteries, the spiritual 
life is very limpid, sane, and at the same time abundant 
and fruitful ; in these souls piety is exempt from all compli- 
cation, nor is there anything forced about it. If we try to 
create or arrange our own spiritual life, there is danger of 
putting much of ourself into it much that is human, and 
there is the risk at times of not taking the way that God 
wishes us to follow in order that we may attain to Him. 
Walking in the footsteps of the Church, there is no risk of 
going astray. The secret of the safety, as of the simplicity 
and breadth, of Benedictine spirituality lies in the fact that 
it borrows not from ever fallible man, but from the Church, 
from the Holy Spirit, all its elements even to its framework, 
which is nothing else than the representation of the life of 
Christ. 

This is a point of extreme importance. Our holiness 
indeed is of the supernatural order, absolutely transcendent, 
having its source, not in us, but in God. Now, says St. Paul, 
we know not how we ought to pray, we know not, in 
this unique affair of our sanctification, what is befitting ; 
but the Spirit of Jesus, Who is in us since our Baptism, 
Who directs the Church, Who is as it were the Soul of the 
Mystical Body, prays in us with ineffable groanings 1 . 

In the Liturgical Office, everything is inspired by this 
Divine Spirit or created under His action. The Holy Spirit, 
Author of the psalms, deeply ingraves in the docile and 
devout soul, the truths whereof they give admirable formulas, 
He fills the soul with the affections that the sacred canticles 

1. Cf. Rom. vii, 26. 


320 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



express. Little by little the soul lives on these truths, is 
nourished on these sentiments which make it see and judge 
all things as God sees and judges them ; it lives constantly 
in the supernatural sphere ; it cleaves to Him Who is the 
unique object of all our religion, the One Who is placed 
unceasingly before our eyes in the reality of His mysteries 
and the power of His grace. 

There is no surer way than this of keeping united to Jesus, 
and consequently going to God. The Church, guided by 
the Holy Spirit, leads us to Christ, Christ leads us to His 
Father and makes us pleasing to Him : what incomparable 
security and what powerful fecundity of the inner life this 
spiritual way guarantees to us 1 


The Divine Office will produce its precious fruits in us 
only if it be well accomplished ; it does not act in the manner 
of the Sacraments, ex opere operalo; its fruitfulness depends 
in great part on the dispositions of the soul. It is a divine 
work, extremely acceptable to God ; it is a privileged means 
of union and sanctification ; — on condition however that 
we bring the necessary dispositions. What are these dispo- 
sitions ? 

Before the Office, we must first of all, prepare our- 
selves. The perfection with which we acquic ourselves of 
the Work of God depends in great part on the preparation 
of the heart ; it is the heart which God looks at first of all : 
Praeparutionem cordis eorum audivil auris tua 1 . " Whatever 
good work thou undertakes t, " our holy Patriarch says, 
speaking to us in general, “ beseech God with most earnest 
prayer to vouchsafe to bring to a. good end ” : Quidguid agen- 
dum inchoas bonum, a Deo perfici instantissima oratione 
deposcas 2 . If this recommendation extends to all our under- 
takings, how much more expressly is it to be applied to a 
work which demands of us faith, love, patience, the sense 
of reverence, and which is for us the “ work ” by excellence, 
because it is “ the Work of God ? " If we do not beg the 
help of God before giving ourselves to tne Divine Praise, we 
shall never accomplish it well. Not to recollect ourselves 
before the Office, but to let our minds wander, then begin ex 
abrupto, and imagine that fervour will be born of itself in 
the soul, is to be under a singular illusion. Scripture tells us : 
“ Before prayer prepare thy soul : and be not as a man that 

i. Ps. x, 17. — 2. Prologue of the Rule. 


THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 


321 



tempteth God ” : Ante orationem, praepara animam luam , cl 
noli esse quasi homo qui tentat Deum 1 . What is " to tempt 
God ? ” It is to undertake an action without being assured 
of the means of carrying it out. If we begin the Divine 
Office without preparation, we cannot recite it as is befitting ; 
to expect the necessary dispositions to come to us from on 
high, without first using the means of producing them within 
us, is to tempt God. 

The first disposition required of us then is that we prepare 
our soul by most fervent prayer : instantissima oratione. It 
is with this object in view that we assemble at the " station ” 
in the cloister before entering the Church. The silence of 
the station ought to be inviolable. It is important that 
each one should respect the recollection of his brethren and 
not trouble (even by words which are necessary but might 
be said at other moments) the work of a soul that is preparing 
itself to be united to God. The moments which pass at the 
station are golden moments. Experience proves that fervour 
during the Divine Office is to be very exactly measured by the 
immediate preparation. Almost infallibly, if we do not 
prepare ourselves, we come out from the " Work of God ” as 
we entered, with, moreover, the culpability of our negligence. 

In what then does this preparation consist 2 ? As soon as 
the bell calls us, venite adoremus 3 , we ought to leave every 
other work : Mox exoccupatis manibus, el quod agebant 

imper/ectum relinquentes 4 ; direct our thoughts towards God 
and say to Him by a movement of the heart : “ Behold I 
come, O my God, to glorify Thee ; may I give myself alto- 
gether to Thy work I " We ought secondly, if needs be by 
a generous and vigorous effort of the mind, to put from us 
every irrelevant preoccupation, every distracting thought, 
and gather up our energies that all may be concentrated 
upon the. work about to begin : our intellect, our will, our 
heart, our imagination, in order that our whole being, bod)' 
and soul, may praise the Lord. We should be able to say 
in all truth : Benedic anima tnea Domtno, et omnia, quae 
intra me sunt, nomini sancto ejus b .; to say like David, 
the sacred singer : Fortitudinem meam ad te custodiam . 
I will keep my strength for Thee, 0 Lord, and for Thy 
service ; I wish to consecrate to Thy praise every power 
within me. 


x. Ecdi. xvm, 23. — 2. We speak of the immediate preparation, supposing 
the remote preparation to be understood and admitted. The 
preparation is, in the moral order, purity of heart and the habit of 

presence of God, and, in the intellectual order, knowledge of the sacred texts, 

of the rubrics and chant etc. — 3. Ps. xciv, 6. — 4- mile, c i> v * 5* • > 


t. — 6. Ps, Lvin, 10. 



322 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

Then let us unite ourselves, by a spiritual communion of 
faith and love, to the Word Incarnate. We must have 
recourse to Christ Jesus ; in this as in all things He is our 
Model and our Head. Christ Jesus loved the Psalms. We 
see Him, in the Gospel, more than once making use of the 
inspired songs, for example, the magnificent psalm Dixit 
Dominus Domino meo 1 , wherein is exalted the glory of 
Christ, the Son of God, triumphant over His enemies. His 
Divine lips have recited these canticles " in such a manner 
that manifestly His soul took possession of the sacred poetry 
as belonging to Himself 3 . ” We then recited the Psalms in 
Him, as now He recites them in us 3 , in virtue of that mar- 
vellous union which grace establishes between Christ and 
His members. This is what Our Lord Himself made Saint 
Mechtilde understand. One day when she asked Him if 
He had really celebrated the Hours upon earth, He 
deigned to reply to her : " I did not recite them as you do ; 
however, at these hours, I rendered homage to God the 
Father. All that is observed among My disciples, I Myself 
inaugurated, as for example Baptism. I observed and ac- 
complished these things for Christians, thus sanctifying and. 
■perfecting the works of those who believe in Me. " Our Divine 
Saviour gave the following counsel to the Saint : “ In be- 
ginning the Hours, let these words then be said with the 
heart and even with the lips : Lord, in union. with the atten- 
tion wherewith when upon earth Thou didst observe the 
Canonical Hours in honour of the Father I celebrate this 
Hour in Thy honour. Secondly let all our attention be kept 
for God. And when this practice having been often repeated 
has become a habit, this exercise will be so lofty and noble 
in the sight of God the Father, that it will seem to make but 
one with that which I Myself practised 4 i " 

i. Ps. cix. — 2. D. FestugiSre, I. c., pp. 114-115. — 3. Oramus ergo ad 
t/mm, per ilium, ir.illn, el dicimus cum illo et dicil nobiscum ; dicimus in illo, 
dicit in nobis psalmi hujus orationein. S. Augustin. Enarr. in Ps. Lx.xxv, 1 
P. L. 37, col. 1082. All this § 1 should be read. — 4. The Book 0/ Special 

Grace, 3 rd part, ch. 3r, Our Lord deigned still more explicitly to teach the 
same doctrine to another Benedictine nun, Mother Deleloe. "One day, ” 
this holy nun relates, the Well-Beloved drawing my heart close to Him, 
it seemed to me that truly this most lovable Spouse plunged it with warm 
caresses and demonstrations of love into the recesses of His Divino Heart, as 
in a furnace of infinite Love. It was then given me to understand ho 1 " this 

favour was granted me by the Well-Beloved, in order that my soul which 

belonged entirely to His Majesty, should not come alone into the presence 
of the Eternal Father to confess and love Him, but that being ac^ om P an * e< ^ 
by this Divine Saviour, united to Him, and as it were altogether tr^n sfonned 
into the unique object of His eternal delight, it should love and honour the 
Divine Majesty the more, — with and by the most adorable Heart of 3 »s Only- 

begotten Son, my Beloved, and be more acceptably received, thr^nfjh this 


THE OPUS DEI , MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 


323 

We must not forget that if Christ Jesus recited the psalms, 
it was " not only individually but, moreover, as the Head 
of humanity, morally identifying Himself with all Adam’s 
race, being touched at Heart with every peril, struggle and 
fall, with every regret and hope of men, uttering to His 
Father, at the same time as His own. prayer, the supreme 
and universal prayer of all humanity l . ” This truth applies 
to all the prayer of Jesus, to all His works, and to His 
sacrifice. 

This is why, with its every movement, the Liturgy finds 
its support in Christ Jesus, the Son of dilection. All its 
prayers end in recalling Christ’s merits and Divinity : Per 
Dominum Nostrum Jesum Christum... At the Mass, which 
is the centre of the liturgy and of all our religion, the " Ca- 
non, ” that most sacred part of the holy oblation, begins 
most solemnly by having recourse to Christ’s mediation : 
" O Father most clement, we beseech Thee : accept these 
gifts through Jesus Christ Thy Son and Our Lord. ’’ It ends 
with the same thought, still more explicitly formulated : Per 
Ipsum, et cum Ipso, et in Ipso: it is through Christ, with 
Christ, and in Christ that we can render all honour and all 
glory to the Father. Why so much insistence ? Because 
the Father has appointed His Son as the one universal 
Mediator. St. Paul, who penetrated so far into the mystery 
of Christ, exhorts us in these terms : " By Him therefore let 
us offer the sacrifice of praise always to God, that is to say, 
the fruit of lips confessing to His Name ” : Per ipsum ergo 
offeramus hostiam laudis semper Deo, id est fructum labiorum 
confilentium nomini ejus 2 . 

In Christ Jesus, we find our best support ; He supplies 
for our deficiencies. Let us entreat Him to be in us the 
Word that praises His Father. In the Sacred Humanity, 
the personal principle of every work was the Word ; let us 
entreat Him also to take the initiative in all our praises., 
let us unite ourselves to Him in the infinite love whereby, 
in the Trinity, He glorifies His Father, and in that immense 
love He bears to the Church, His Mystical Body, Christus 
dilexit Ecclesiam 3 . Let us further unite ourselves to Him, 
praising Him for the glory that He gives to the Church 
triumphant, which is without spot or wrinkle in His holy 
sight: non habens maculam aut rugam*; let us beseec 
Him to increase the glory of His Blessed Mother, of is 

means, by the Sovereign Bounty.” La Mire Deleloe, p.231. Collection 
“Pax, XVI". , v . 

1. D. Festugterc, l. c. p. 115. — 2. Hebr. XIII » l > ~~ 3 ‘ Eph * ’ ~ 5 ’ 

Cf. Ibid. 27. 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



324 

Angels and of His Saints ; then let us unite our love to 
His love for the Church suffering, in order that we may 
help those of His members who are waiting in the place 
of expiation ; let us unite ourselves to Him in that prayer 
which He made at the Last Supper for all His Church here 
below : Pater, rogo pro eis qui credituri sunt in me L 
As the ages succeed one another, Christ leaves His Bride 
to accomplish a part of the prayer that He recited when 
on the point of offering His sacrifice. Although this prayer 
is of infinite efficacy, Our Lord wills us to join our own to 
it. One day our Divine Saviour, casting His gaze upon the 
multitude of souls to be redeemed, said to His Apostles 
whom He was about to send to preach the Gospel : Rogate 
dominion messis lit mittat operarios in messem suam 2 , “ Pray 
ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He send labourers 
into His harvest. " The Apostles might have replied : 
" Lord, why dost Thou tell us to pray ? Does not Thy 
prayer suffice ? ” No, it does not suffice : Rogate: " Pray, ’’ 
you also. Christ Jesus chooses to have need of our prayers 
as of those of His Apostles. Let us think, at the moments 
when we are recollecting ourselves at the “ station ” that 
from the depths of the tabernacle, Christ is about to say 
us : Rogate Dominum messis : “Lend Me your lips and hearts 
that I may prolong My prayer here below while in Heaven 
I offer My merits to the Father. Prayer first of all : the 
labourers will only come afterwards and their work will 
bear fruit only in the measure that My Father, attentive - 
to your prayer, which is Mine, will pour down the heavenly 
dew of His grace upon earth. ” 

Before beginning the Divine Office, let us then cast a 
glance over the world : the Church, the Spouse of Christ, is 
ever in travail of redemption. Let us behold the Sovereign 
Pontiff, the pastors of dioceses and parishes, the religious 
Orders, the missionaries who carry the good word to the 
heathen in order to extend the Kingdom of Jesus ; let us 
behold, in spirit, the sick in the hospitals, the dying whose 
eternal salvation is about to be decided at this very moment ; 
let us think of prisoners, of the poor, of those who suffer, 
of souls in temptation ; of sinners who wish to return to 
God but are weighed down by the burden of their chains ; 
of the just who ardently long to advance in divine love. 
Is it not this that the Church herself does on Good Friday ? 
Remembering the sacrifice for the redemption of the whole 
world, and feeling herself strong in the very strength of the 
1.- Joan, xvn, ao. — 2. Luo. x, 2. 



THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 325 


Saviour, the Church lets her motherly gaze travel over the 
diverse series of souls who have need of help from on high, 
and she offers special supplications for each. Let us imitate 
this example of our mother and approach God with 
confidence, for at this moment we are the mouth of the 
whole Church : Tolius Ecclesiae os 1 . 

I was saying in the preceding conference that, in choir, 
we are the Church’s ambassadors. Now what is the most 
! fundamental quality of an ambassador ? To be clever ? 
powerful ? to have a large fortune at his disposal ? to 
have influence ? to shine by his personal talents ? to be 
persona grata with the sovereign to whom he is sent ? All 
this is useful and necessary ; all these qualities would 
contribute without any doubt to the success of his mission, 
but they would be insufficient and sterile, they would even 
I deviate from the end in view did not the ambassador 
identify himself first of all, and as perfectly as he possibly 
could, with the intentions and opinions of the sovereign who 
sent him, with the interests of the country he represents. 

; The Church deputes us to the King of kings, to the throne 
1 of God. We must then identify ourselves with her views 
and wishes ; the Church confides to us her interests, which 
are those of souls, those of eternity. This is not a trivial 
' matter ! Let us then take into our hearts all the needs, all 
the necessities of the Church — so dear to Jesus since she 
is purchased by His Blood — the anguish of souls in pain, 
the perils of those who are at this moment grappling with 
the devil, the anxieties of those who have to direct us ; in 
order that all may receive God’s help. This is what was 
done by the holy Sister Mech tilde of Magdebou rg. She took 
all Christendom in the arms of her soul to present it to the 
Eternal Father that it might be saved. ” Let be, ” said 
Our Lord to her, “ it is too heavy for thee. ’’ “ No, Lord, 
replied the Saint, " I will lift it up and bear it to Thy 
with Thine own arms, that so Thou mayest bear it Thyself 
upon the Cross. 2 I " An example of the faith of great souls 
which constrains them to put the dogma of the Communion 
of saints into the highest and most perfect practice. 

Let us imitate these models, and we may be assured that 
light, consolation, help, and the grace of forgiveness will 
flow down abundantly from the throne of mercy upon the 
whole Church. Remember what Our Lord Himself said : 
•• Amen, amen, I say to you ; if you ask the Father 

I- S. Bern. Senen. Sermo xx. — 2 The Light oj the Divinity, b. II, ch. 12. 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



326 

anything in My Name, He will give it you 1 ” Rely upon 
this promise, ask much, ask in all confidence, and the Father 
from Whom “ every perfect gift comes down 2 , " will open 
His hands to fill every soul with blessings 3 . For it is not 
we who pray, who intercede at this moment ; it is the Church, 
it is Christ, our Head, the supreme High Priest Who prays 
in us, and stands before His Father to plead the cause of 
the souls He has redeemed : TJt appareat vultui Dei pro 
nobis... 4 Semper vivens ad interpellandum pro nobis 5 . 

It is true that men of the world shrug their shoulders 
when they learn that we stay such long hours in choir 
praising God. For them, nothing is worth anything unless 
it is exterior, unless the results can be touched or felt, 
unless it is something that is talked about, that is successful 
and brilliant ; but, says St. Paul, in his inspired energetic 
language, the sensual man, whose natural reason is his only 
guide, cannot understand the things of God : Animalis homo 
non percipit quae sunt Spiritus Dei*; the supernatural sense 
is lacking to him. For him, these hours are lost and wasted 
hours ; but to the eyes of faith, in the sight of God, — and 
who is just and true as God ? — these hours are rich in 
graces for the Church, and of great weight for souls as regards 
eternity. It is at these hours we fulfil the most excellent 
apostolic work, even towards our neighbour ; we obtain for 
him the grace of God, we give him God : this is the greatest 
good for a soul. St. Bernard, that great monk and apostle, 
consumed with zeal, says, " all apostleship demands three 
things : the word, example, prayer. But of these three 
prayer is the most important, because it is prayer which 
obtains the grace and efficacy of the word and example 7 . " 
Indeed " unless the Lord build the house, they labour in 
vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watch- 
eth in vain that keepeth it 8 . ” It is truly God Who holds 
the eternal destinies of souls within His hands : In manibus 
tuis sortes meat 0 ; and when we fervently recite the Divine 
Office for the whole Church, in union with Christ Jesus, we 
labour for the salvation and sanctification of souls in a mea- 
sure we cannot compass 10 . 

I. Joan. XVI, 23. — 2. Jao. 1, 17. — 3. Cf. Ps. exuv, 16. — 4. Hebr. ix, 
24- — 5 - Ibid, vii , 25. — 6. I Cor. 11, 14. — 7. Martcnt tria li.icc: verb', an, 
exemplum, nratio ; major aulem his est oralio ; 11am, etsi vocis virtus sit opus, 
cl operi tarnen ct voci gratiam efficaciamquc prorncrctur oratio. Epistola, 201, 
n. 3. P. L. 1S2, 00. 370. A disciple of S‘ Bernard, Dom Chautard, Abbot ol Sept' 
Fons, lias written on this subject a most valuable work translated into English 
under the title of “ The True Apostolate*' , which we cannot sufficiently 
recommend. — 8. Ps. cxxvi, 1. — 9. Ps. xxx, 16. — 10. See La Vie con- 
templative cl son r 6 lc aposloliquc, by a Carthusian monk. 


THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 327 

The Work of God” is an eminently apostolic work, 
although this does not appear outwardly ; this character of 
the Office is perceived by faith alone, but for those who 
have faith, how much the value of this work is enhanced ! 
A Sister of Charity can count the number of sick persons 
she has assisted, the number of the dying for whose conversion 
she has laboured ; a missionary can verify the success of 
his preaching, take into account the good that he does, and 
therein find encouragement for his efforts and motives for 
thanksgiving. We cannot keep any such register. It is in 
the obscurity of faith that, during the Divine Office, we work 
for souls ; it is in heaven alone that we shall see all the 
glory we have given to God by devoutly singing His praises, 
all the good we have gained for the Church and for souls ; 
below we cannot gauge it ; this is one sacrifice the more that 
faith asks of us. But although the apostolic efficacy of the 
Work of God well performed does not appear to our bodily 
eyes, it is no less deep and far-reaching. 

Let these great thoughts occupy our minds at the moment 
of beginning the Divine Office ; they enlarge the horizon 
of the soul ; they increase its energies tenfold, they prevent 
routine. When we habitually act in this spirit of faith, 
when we thus forget our personal pain and troubles, in order 
to occupy ourselves with the needs and interests of souls, 
we go out of self ; we praise God with fervour, in spite of 
the weariness that may befall us, in spite of the repugnance 
which God sometimes permits us to feel ; and let us be assured 
1 1 that if we think, before all things, of God’s glory and of 

Christ’s Mystical Body, Jesus will think of us and will pour 
down blessings upon our souls surpassing all our hopes and 
desires. Has He not promised this Himself ? " Give — 

and it shall be given to you ” : Date, et dabitur vobis 1 , 

V. 

i . t * . 

After having formulated our intentions, in a few rapid but 
intense acts, let us ask God “ earnestly instantissima 
oratione, to open our lips that we may praise His holy name ; 
to cleanse our hearts from vain, perverse, or simply irrelevant 
thoughts ; to enlighten our understanding, to enkindle our 
love, that we may praise Him worthily, with attention and 
devotion. This is all contained in the prayer Apert which 
we recite before each Office ; we should endeavour to say it 
with humility and fervour, for it points out the dispositions 

1. I.uc vi, 38. ) 



328 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

that we ought to have during the work of God : Digne, 
attcnte et devote. 

To pray worthily, — that is to observe faithfully the cere- 
monial, the rubrics, the rules of chanting, all that forms 
the protocol imposed by the King of kings upon those who 
present themselves before Him. If, being admitted to the 
court of an earthly sovereign, we did not trouble ourselves 
about etiquette, we should be quite reasonably taxed with 
being guilty of great disrespect. The Church, under the 
Holy Spirit’s action, has arranged the ceremonial of her 
prayer with extreme care. By this she manifests the 
reverence she bears to her Divine Spouse. Under the Old 
Covenant, God Himself gave the details of the worship to 
be paid to Him, and we see that He shed blessings upon 
the Jewish people in the measure that they observed His 
ordinances. And yet, what was the immediate object of this 
worship ? The ark of the covenant, containing the tables of 
the Law, and the manna. It was but a figure, a symbol, an 
imperfect shadow — egena elementa, to speak in the language 
of St. Paul 1 . Ours is the true tabernacle, for it contains tha 
true Manna of souls ; it contains the One Who alone is 
holy: Tu solus sanclus, Jesu Chris te 2 . The Divine Office 
is celebrated around the tabernacle, under the eyes of 
Christ. The Father lovingly beholds a soul who seeks to 
procure the glory of His Beloved Son Jesus : Et cla.rific.avi, 
el iterum clarificabo 3 ; therefore all is pleasing to Him that 
composes or enhances the worship whereof Jesus is the centre. 
Let us then take care not to exempt ourselves from the cere- 
monial nor to recite or chant the Office according to our 
own fancies or caprices ; this would be wanting in respect 
to God ; it would be exposing ourselves to a wrong kind 
of familiarity which could only be harmful to us. God 
remains God, that is to say the Infinite Being, full of in- 
communicable majesty, even when He admits us to praise 
Him. Neither let us say that the rubrics are small matters ; 
yes, these things are materially small ; but they are great 
by reason of the love with which we should observe them ; 
great because they so closely concern God’s honour ; a soul 
who loves Our Lord shows this love by putting as much 
fidelity into small things as into great actions, for nothing 
is really small which is according to the Divine good pleasure. 

Let us pray attentively. Attention must be distinguished 
from intention, although the one is not without influence 

t. Cf. Gal, iv, 9. — 2. Gloria of the Mass. — 3. Joan, xn, 28. 


THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 329 


on the other. We have just now pointed out the intent ons 
we ought to have in the course of the divine psalm' dy. 
Attention, too, is very necessary, for the Divine Praise s a 
human action, performed by a being endowed with re; son 
and will. Failing this attention, we should fill the me> ha- 
nical r61e of a series of well tuned phonographs ; we shi uld 
be like the praying-wheels of the monks of Thibet. 

But what is the kind of attention required ? St. Tho nas 
distinguishes first : the aitentio ad verba, the mental ap pli- 
cation to pronounce the words well ; it is this that beginners 
have to strive after first of all ; secondly, the attentio ad 
sensum, attention to the meaning of the words ; finally, 
the attentio ad Deum; this is, according to St. Thomas, 
" the most necessary ” : Quae quidem est maxime necessaria 1 . 

Our holy Lawgiver combines the whole in a sufficiency 
synthetical manner in his beautiful chapter De disciplina 
psallendi. He first of all lays down the principle : Ubique 
credimus divinam esse praesentiam, maxime tamen... cum ad 
Opus divinum assistimus : " We believe, ” he says, " that 
God is present everywhere, but especially, maxime, when 
we are assisting at the Divine Office. ” From this principle 
he draws two conclusions ; we must sing God’s praises with 
the greatest reverence : Ideo semper memores simus quod ait 
propheta: servite Domino in tiniore; with understanding, 
knowing well what we are doing and saying; El iter urn: 
Psallite sapienter. Then at the end of the chapter, he links 
together the two dispositions with these words : Ergo consi- 
deremus qualiter oporteat in conspectu Divinilatis esse, et sic 
slemus ad psallendum ut mens nostra concordet vocl nostrae : 
" Let us consider with what' reverence we ought to behave 
in God’s presence, and so assist at the psalmody that our 
mind be in accord with our lips. ” We should weigh this 


I 




teaching carefully. , . 

We are first of all told that during the Office, we ought 
to remain interiorly prostrate in adoration before God. ( God 
is Infinite Holiness, “ the Lord God of all things, our 
Blessed Father reminds us in the chapter De reverentiaora- 
iionis 3 . When Abraham, the father of believers, s spoke to 

the Lord, he called himself dust and ashes . Divine 

conversed with God, such was his profound f “e oftheDivme 
Majesty that he durst not raise his eyes to look upon Him . 


1. Triplex attentio oraliom vocali potest 
ad verba, nc aliquis in eis errel; secunda q , . p r0 „ ua ora tttr. 


27 . 


f 

i 




330 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

Non audebat respicerc contra Detim 1 ; and yet Scripture tells 
us, God spoke to him " as a man is wont to speak to his 

friend 2 . ’’ , , _ , 

From the time of the dedication of Solomon s Temple, 
" the Majesty of the Lord ’’ filled the temple so exceedingly 
that the priests dare not cross the threshold 3 . Even under 
the law of love, even in the Beatific Vision, which is the 
absolute perfection of intimacy with God, adoration does 
not cease. St. John shows us the Angels and the Elect 
casting themselves down before the Infinite Majesty: Et 
ceciderunl in facies suas*. Now, during the Divine Office, 
we are introduced by the Church into the presence of the 
Father ; we are, it is true, the children of this heavenly Father, 
but His’ adopted children ; we ought not to forget our first 
condition of creatures. The Invitatory psalm which is 
repeated daily at the beginning of Matins and is like the 
prelude to the " Hours ” of the whole day, is very expressive 
of this attitude. " Come, let us praise the Lord with 
gladness... let us come before His presence with thanksgiving ; 
and make a joyful noise to Him with psalms. For the Lord 
is a great God, and a great King above all gods. For in 
His hand are all the ends of the earth : and the heights of 
the mountains are His... For the sea is His, and He made 
it : and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us adore 
and fall down. Let us weep before the Lord that made us, 
for He is the Lord our God 6 . " What a magnificent open- 
ing ! “ Come, " says the Psalmist, and at this moment, 

we bend the knee, to manifest our adoration, our reverence. 
Our fear is not that of the slave, unworthy of us and of 
God; nor even an imperfect fear, like that of a servant; 
but it is the fear of children in their heavenly Father’s house, 
for we are really His people, the sheep of His pasture : Nos 
aulem populus ejus et ones pascuae ejus 6 . It is an intense 
reverence, like that which even now in Heaven fills the 
Sacred Humanity of Jesus Himself : Timor Domini sanctus, 
permanens in saeculum saeculi 7 . 

This inward reverence for a " Father of infinite majesty, ” 
Palrem immensae majestatis B , should from time to time be 
manifested outwardly. Let all, says our holy Patriarch, 
incline at the Gloria Patri which follows each psalm, and is 
the doxology wherein we translate our adoration, ob honorem 
et reverentiam sanclae Trinitalis 9 ; let us, he says again, 

I. Ex. in, 6. — 2. Ibid, xxxm, n. — 3. II Paral. vn, 2. — 4. Apoc. 
vii, 11. — 5. Ps. xciv, 1-7. — 6. Ps. xciv. Wc here Rive the text of the 
Breviary and not that of the Vulgate. — 7. Ps. xvm, 10. — 8. Hymn ie 
Dcum. — 9. Rule, cli. ix. 


THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 33T 

listen to the reading of the Gospel, at the end of Matins, 
standing in reverence and awe : Cum honors el timorc \ These 
are some of the outward manifestations of inmost reverence, 
but we ought to be watchful to keep ourselves in this 
reverence throughout all the Office without however making 
violent efforts of mind or imagination. 

Nothing hinders us, while thus inwardly prostrate in 
adoration, from attending to the meaning of the words, to 
the affections that the Holy Spirit makes the Psalms 
express. This is what our Blessed Father asks of us when 
he tells us, in a lapidary phrase, to put our heart in unison 
with our lips : Mens nostra concordel voci nostrae. " If the 
Psalm prays, pray ; if it weeps, weep ; if it rejoices, rejoice ; 
if it hopes, hope ; and if it fears, fear. All that is contained 
therein is our mirror *. " We remain in adoration during all 
the time of the psalmody ; it is a fundamental attitude; 
but over this reverence which holds the depths of our being 
in awe surge movements of love, joy, praise, complacency, 
confidence, intense longings, earnest supplications. All these 
modulations rise up from the Psalms, to the glory of our 
Father in heaven, and for the good of souls, in the measure 
that the Holy Spirit touches the chords of our heart. Our 
soul ought to be like a harp docile to the fingers of this 
Divine Artist, that so our canticle may be pleasing to God. 

Under an apparent divergency, there is perfect accordance 
between the views of St. Thomas, quoted above, and those 
of St. Benedict. The angelic Doctor does not in any way 
teach that “ attention to God ” is exclusive of ‘ attention 
to the sense ” (of the words) ; he only wishes that the soul 
shall not be bound to follow word for word, that it shall 
be free to soar Godwards, in short that the means shall not 
become an end. And this is exactly how St. Benedict 
understands things ; he does not say that the soul ought 
to be tied down to each word we pronounce ( verbis ) , he 
says that it ought to be in harmony with our voice, that 
is to say it ought to go towards God by using the wings that 
the liturgical theme offers. This is what the elect do in 
heaven’s liturgy ; they unceasingly remain in contemplation 
before God in most perfect adoration, without this contem- 
plation hindering then from praising each of the Divine 

attributes. „ . , . ... 

This moreover is what our Saviour, our Divine Model, did 

1 Rule ch xi 2. Si oral psalmus, orate; et si gemil, gemite; et si gra- 

tulatur, gaudete; el si sperat, operate ; et si E'narrat^si’mps. 

hie conscripta sunt, speculum nostrum sunt . S. Augustin, • P 

30. Scrmo 3, N° I. P. L. 36, col 248, 




332 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

here below. The soul of Jesus was always plunged in the 
contemplation and adoration of the Father’s perfections. 
When He spent the night in prayer, in oratione Dei 1 , when 
His Divine lips murmured the sacred canticles, His under- 
standing sounded all their depth, exhausted all their pleni- 
tude. 

In the same way when the monk, united to Christ Jesus, 
enters the oratory, bearing in his soul the deepest and most 
precious interests of Jesus’ Mystical Body, when bis heart 
is filled, and then overflows with the varied affections to 
which the Holy Spirit successively gives rise by means of the 
words uttered by the lips, — he offers God an extremely 
pleasing homage, while torrents of light and love, flowing at 
his prayer from God’s munificence, are poured out upon the 
world of souls. 

The last disposition required for acquitting oneself well 
of the work of God is devotion : devote. Devovere means 
" to consecrate. ’’ Devotion is the consecration of our whole 
self to God ; it is the most delicate flower and the purest 
fruit of love, for it is love giving itself wholly to the beloved 
being ; it is the literal fulfilment of Christ’s words : 
Diliges Dominum Deum tuum ex toto corde tuo cl ex TOTA 
menle tua 2 . It is this totality in love which is the mark 
of devotion. When we love with all our heart, we do not 
count the cost, we willingly spend ourselves without measure 
for the sake of those we thus love. In regard to God and 
in the Work of God, these dispositions constitute devotion. 

We must not confound this devotion with certain of its 
effects. It does not consist in feelings of sensible consolation; 
however frequent these may be, they are not the less acci- 
dental, depending as much on temperament and circum- 
stances as on Our Lord. It is good to feel sweetness in 
God's service. The inspired singer says himself, Gustate ct 
videle quoniam sttavis est Daminus 3 , but it does not constitute 
the essential of devotion. We must thank God if He allows 
us to experience that His service is full of sweetness, for 
that encourages us and stimulates love 4 ; however we must 
not cling to tnese consolations as if they formed the very 
basis of devotion. 

To be truly devout in the Divine Office is to strive with all 

i. Luc. vi, 12. — 2. Marc, xn, 30. — 3. Ps. xxxm, 9. — 4. This is what 
we say to God in the Postcommunion of the Mass of the Rogations : " Vouch- 
safe, 0 Lord, favourably to receive our vows; that receiving Thy gifts in 
the midst of our tribulation, wc may, from the consolation Thou givest us, 
increase in Thy love '* : dc consolations nostra in tuo airtore crcscantus. 


THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 333 

one's being to celebrate it well ; it is to go to the choir 
every day and several times a day, with all the zeal, strength 
and energy that we can bring, in order to accomplish the 
Work of God as perfectly as possible ; it is to persevere in 
doing this, not only when feeling consolation, but whatever 
be the state of our mind, the weariness of our body, the 
inward repugnance that God sometimes, allows us to ex- 
perience. These are sacrifices to be accepted during the 
hours of praise ; we have mentioned several of them in 
the preceding conference. To accept them requires self- 
abnegation and much generosity. From whence will this 
generosity arise ? What will nourish it ? Love ; for devo- 
tion is love put into practice. When one possesses this 
fervour which is bom of love, he truly gives to God a sacrifice 
of praise: Tibi sacrificabo hostiam latidis 1 . Devotion is to 
praise God with one’s whole being, to make of one’s self a 
holocaust to God : Confitebor tibi Domine in toto corde meo s . 
A monk who does not sacrifice every thought foreign to the 
occasion, who, during the Work of God, does not concentrate 
all the forces of his intellect and will upon God, and assists 
at the office of praise scarcely moving his lips, neglecting the 
points of the ceremonial established by the Church for the 
glory of God, does not fulfil his duty as a monk in a satisfactory 
manner. This negligence, this indolence, is unworthy of a 
monk. While so many religious in purely active Orders, so 
many missionaries spend themselves without counting the 
cost in ministering to souls, it would be inadmissible that 
a monk should perform without fervour the lofty work 
devolving upon him. When we are in choir, we ought to 
be able to say in all truth : " O my God, I can now glorify 
Thee, in union with Thy beloved Son ; I can do much for 
the interests of souls redeemed by the Blood of this Son ; 
without my prayer, which is that of Thy Son, there might 
perhaps be some at this moment who would be lost for 
eternity. Let all within me sing Thy praise ; let there be 
nothing in me which is not Thine ! ” God loves generosity 
in His service, but, according to the energetic expression of 
Scripture, He “ vomits the tepid 3 , ” those who are indifferent 
to the interests of His glory and those of souls. 

Let us then give ourselves wholly to this work of capital 
importance, after the example of so many holy monks who 
have found it the best means of showing their love to Cod 
and souls. It is related of St. Mechtilde that it was her 
custom to use all. her strength in praising God with fervent 

I. Ps. cxv, 17. — 2. Ps. IX, 2. — 3 * Cf. Apoc. HI, 


CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



334 

love ; it seemed that she would never be stayed even it 
it were at the cost of her last breath. One day when she 
was weary with singing, as often happened, she felt ready to 
swoon. It then appeared to her that she drew all her strength 
from Christ’s Divine Heart, and could thus continue to sing, 
less by her own strength than by Divine virtue. In this 
union, she seemed to sing with God and in God, and Our 
Lord said to her : Thou dost now appear to draw thy breath 
in My Heart ; in the same way, every person who shall sigh 
after Me with love or desire, shall draw his breath not in 
himself, but in My Divine Heart 1 . " 

VI. 

For the Divine Office to be accomplished with the fervour 
entirely worthy of it, great faith and generous love are needed. 
If we have not this living faith and this ardour of love, it 
may happen that after some time we do not sufficiently 
esteem the Divine Office ; that we no longer have a high enough 
idea of its immense value for God’s glory and the welfare 
of souls, and we end by considering other works more im- 
portant. Without owning this to ourselves, we may perhaps 
feel some satisfaction if it happens that for such or such a 
reason we are dispensed from presence in choir. 

On the contrary, to a soul inspired with a living faith, 
the Opus Dei always appears incomparably great and 
inexhaustibly fruitful. Joined to the Holy Sacrifice which 
it encircles, it appears as the most perfect homage we can 
offer to God, as an extremely effectual means of union with 
Him. Routine takes no hold on such a religious ; every 
day the Divine Praise has fresh attractions for him ; every 
day it is a “ new canticle ” canticum novum 2 that all his 
being, body and soul, sends up to God to glorify Him. 
For example, at the oft repeated words of the Invitatory: 
" Come, let us adore the Lord, ’’ all heads are bowed, like 
a field of corn bending beneath the breeze. If this inclination 
is made by routine, without attention to the meaning the 
action expresses, it is an almost valueless ceremony, but 
if the soul, full of devotion, casts itself interiorly before 
God and gives itself entirely to Him, what magnificent 
praises then rise up to God ! The Angels alone can admire 
all the beauty of this action. In the same way, when we 
incline at the Gloria Patri at the end of each psalm, let us 
gather up into this action all our praise and all our devotion, 

I. The Book of Special Grace. 3 rd part. ch. 7. — 2. Ps. xcv, 1 ; xcvii, 1 1 

C.X1.IX, I. 


THE OPUS DEI, MEANS OF UNION WITH GOD 335 

and strive to penetrate ourselves with devotion at the 
, thought of the oblation we ought to make of ourselves to 
the Holy Trinity in chanting these words. 

If it happens that despite all our ardour to praise God in 
choir, we are there assailed with distractions, what are we 
to do ? Distractions are inevitable. We are all weak ; so 
many objects solicit our attention that our mind easily 
wanders. We need not be anxious about those distractions 
which are the result of our frailty. " As for the distractions 
you experience in reciting the Divine Office, ” St. Teresa 
wrote to one of her correspondents, " I am subject to them 
as you are, and I advise you to attribute them, as I do, to 
weakness of the head ; for Our Lord well knows that, since 
we pray to Him, our intention is to pray well. ” 

This last phrase of the great contemplative is one to 
bear in mind. Inasmuch as we ought not to trouble our- 
selves about the distractions that arise during the Divine 
Office owing to the instability of our imagination, so, before 
the Work of God, ought we to do our utmost to prepare our- 
selves, in order to show “ our intention is to pray well. ’’ 
Otherwise, having made no eifort befoie the Office to turn 
our mind towards God, to recollect ourselves in Him, to 
fill our soul with deep reverence and great devotion, it will 
be very difficult for us not to have those distractions which 
are to be imputed to negligence. We can appeal to our 
own experience ; the greater number of our distractions 
would be avoided if we gave the proper care to the immediate 
preparation ; and if, going through the Office in a mechanical 
manner, we let many lights and graces escape us, it 'is our 
own carelessness we have to blame. 

But if, before offering our homage to God, we recollect 
ourselves with fervour ; if we unite ourselves, in an intense 
act of faith and love, to Christ Jesus, the Incarnate Word, 
that we may lend Him our lips, in order to praise His Father 
and draw down the lights and gifts of His Spirit upon all 
His Mystical Body, we may be at peace on the subject of 
the distractions that arise ; they are the result of our infirmi- 
ty ; as soon as we are aware of them, let us recover possession 
of our mind, but let us do so gently without any violent 
effort. In particular, let the Gloria Patri, by its frequent 
recurrence, be an opportunity, of reawakening our rigilance. 
In pronouncing it, we bow in order to give to God the 
homage of our reverence and adoration ; it is the easiest 
. moment for bringing back the soul to the sense of the Divine 
j Presence. Distractions will thus serve to reanimate our 



336 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

fervour; and if wc continue to do out utmost to observe 
all the rites carefully, our praise will remain none the less 
pleasing to God and fruitful for the Church. 

This is what Bossuet admirably says in terms which we 
will borrow as the conclusion of this conference. " Religious 
soul ! The fruit of Jesus Christ’s teaching upon prayer should 
principally be to be faithful to the hours consecrated to it. 
Were you to be distracted inwardly, if you lament being so, 
if you only wish not to be so, and remain faithful, humble 
and recollected outwardly, the obedience you give to God, 
the Church and the Rule, by observing the genuflexions, the 
inclinations and all the other exteriour pious observances, 
maintains the spirit of prayer. We pray then by state, by 
disposition, by will : but especially if we humble ourselves 
for our dryness and distractions. Oh ! how pleasing to God 
is this prayer I How it mortifies body and soul 1 How it 
obtains graces and expiates sin 1 1 ” 
i. Meditations on the Gospel. Sermon on the Mount. 44 la day, 


XV. — MONASTIC PRAYER. 


Summary. — I. The place that prayer holds in the life of the monk. 
— II. Qualities that St. Benedict requires of prayer ; necessity 
of preparation. — III. Character of monastic prayer in the 
purgative way. — IV. In the illuminative way. — V. How 
the Opus Del is the pure source of abundant illumination. — 
VI. State of prayer in the unitive life. — VII. Means given by 
St. Benedict for maintaining the life of prayer within us. — 
VIII. This life constitutes the normal state of a religious in 
his cloister ; the precious fruits it produces. 


T he representation of the life of Christ forms the 
principal basis of the Liturgical Cycle. But Christ is 
not alone ; we also celebrate those members of His 
Mystical Body who already make part of His glorious 
Kingdom, the elect who are the noblest purchase of the 
Blood of Jesus and the most beautiful fruit of the Church’s 
union with her Divine Spouse. The Saints form Christ’s 
cortege throughout the Liturgical Cycle, and when we praise 
their virtues and chant their merits, we exalt and celebrate 
the One Who, being their Head, is now likewise their Crown : 
Ipse est corona Sanctorum omnium 1 . 

There is great variety among these saints ; each according 
to his or her vocation, and the measure of the giving of 
of Christ’s grace, secundum mensuram donationis Chnsti-, 
reproduces one of the aspects of the plenitude of the Man- 
God’s perfections. The same Spirit, says St. Paul , has 
given to each a special grace which, being engrafted upon 
nature, makes each one of the elect shine with a particular 
glory. In some, strength has dominated ; in others, prudence , 
again in others, zeal for God’s glory ; in one, faith nas 
especially shone out, in another, purity. But whether ley 
be the Apostles, Martyrs or Pontiffs, whether it concerns 
Virgins or Confessors, , one common character _ is oe 
found in them all. This character is stability in seeking 
after God and in love of Him. And this is a great vir e, 
for inconstancy is one of the most redoubtable peri s 
menace mankind. 

i. Invitatory at Matins lor the Feast of All Saints. 2 . Eph. iv, 7. 3 - 

I Cor. xn, 4. 



338 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

The Saints sought God indefatigably. Whatever the 
circumstances wherein they were placed, the temptations 
with which they were buffeted, the difficulties they encoun- 
tered, the seductions that surrounded them, the Saints all 
remained steadfast and faithful. Therefore on the day of 
their entrance into the Eternal Kingdom, God crowned them 
with glory and inebriated them with joy : “ Good and faithful 
servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, 
enter into the joy of thy Lord ” : Euge, serve bone et fidelis, 
quia super pauca fuisti fidelis... intra in gaudium Domini 
tui \ Because, in seeking after the unique Good, they did 
not allow themselves to be turned back, the Saints have 
attained the glorious goal. 

And what is the intimate reason of this stability in good ? 
What is the secret of the Saints ? 

This secret is the life of prayer. The soul that leads a 
life of prayer, remains united to God ; it lays hold upon 
God, it shares in the Divine immutability and eternity, and 
therefore it is not moved whatever be the circumstances. 
A child who in the tempest clings to the rock is stronger 
than a man abandoned to the caprices of the waves. 

The firm adherence of the soul to God is the fruit of 
prayer. The Saints in Heaven cannot but remain united 
to God and to His will because they contemplate God and 
see in Him the fulness of all perfection and the fountainhead 
of all sovereignity. To live a life of prayer is to abide 
habitually in contact with God in faith, and, in this union, 
the soul finds the necessary light and strength to do the 
Divine good pleasure in all things. And as God is for it 
the principle of all holiness, the soul that lives bv prayer 
finds in this habitual union with God Who created prayer 
the fruitfulness of its supernatural life. 

Let us examine the place that prayer holds in our monastic 
life i — what characters St. Benedict wishes to give to it ; 
— what means are put within our hands by the Rule for 
safeguarding and maintaining the life of prayer within us. 


Prayer should occupy a very large place in the life of the 
monk. Those who read the Rule of St. Benedict for the 
first time are a little astonished to see that he does not j 
assign to his monks any special length of time to consecrate 
to private prayer. He says simply that the monk should 

i. Matth. xxv, 23. 


MONASTIC PRAYER 33g 

S” n H y elt y °r iM •»“»- 

here He says furthermore that a brother who wishes to 
pray by himself after the recitation of the Divine Office 
shall have leisure to do so * Again he writes a very beautiful 

nbLJw P b ge the < 3 ualit ’ es which prayer ought 
to have 3 . Nowhere, however, does he fix for his monks 
one hour rather than another to give themselves to private 
prayer. There are people of a certain turn of mind who 
cannot refrain from evincing their surprise at this : but 

TT 5 ' The - e j d . stenc . e of the monk, such as 
St. Benedict has organised it, with its separation from the 
world, its solitude, the Divine Praises, holy reading, is in 
view of creating and at the same time supposes,’ a life 
of prayer. The holy Legislator did not therefore feel the 
necessity of determining one hour or half hour for the 
exercise of prayer. Monks who live in perfect obedience 
to the prescriptions enacted by St. Benedict necessarily 
attain to the life of prayer. In the conception of the holy 
Patriarch as in that of all monastic tradition, prayer is not 
simply a transitory isolated action accomplished at such or 
such an hour and hairing only a virtual relation with the 
other actions of the day ; it should be the very breath of 
the soul without which there is no true inner life. But 
when a man lives this life of union with God, he quite natu- 
rally consecrates an interval of specified time during the 
day for communing specially with God, for the soul that 
loves God wishes to be united with Him in a more exclusive 
manner at certain moments. This hour of prayer is as it 
were the intensifying of the life of prayer in which the soul 
habitually moves. 

No day should pass without our applying ourselves to 
this prayer, for our holy Father desires that " daily in 
prayer " colidie in orationi 4 , we should confess our sins to 
God. Even " frequently ” in the day, the monk should 
turn to God to commune with Him, Orationi frequenter 
incumber e. Moreover, according to the Rule, the monk is 
to consecrate two to four hours a day to “ holy reading 5 ”. 
This last expression has, with St. Benedict, a very elastic 
meaning, ailo wring of the possibility, foreseen for certain 
souls, of devoting a very long time to prayer. 

We know too how the holy Patriarch has himself set us 
the example. Each day he poured out his soul before God 
in sublime prayer which was the well-spring of magnificent 

1 . Rule, ch. IV. — 2 . Ibid. ch. lii. — 3. Ibid. ch. xx. — 4. Ibid. ch. iv. 

5. Ibid. ch. xlviii. 




34 ° CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

graces. It was assuredly whilst he was in prayer that God 
one day showed him the entire universe gathered up as it 
were in one ray of light 1 ; it was as a sequel to his prayer 
that he raised to life a monk crushed by the falling of a 
wall 2 , and, at another time, the son of a peasant 3 ; again 
it was during prayer that he saw the soul of his sister St. Scho- 
lastica ascend to Heaven under the form of a dove 4 . 

If then we want to be true disciples of the great Patriarch, 
we must often give ourselves to prayer, in view of that 
life of prayer which he certainly desires each one of us to 
lead. Our Blessed Father, in fact, has no other aim than 
to help us to find God : Si revera Deum quaerit 6 . As we 
said in our first conference where we tried to show the 
greatness of this aim, we shall only attain it by the entire 
gift of ourselves. We quoted the words uttered by St. Ca- 
therine of Siena on her death-bed ; we cannot truly possess 
God, said she, save by giving ourselves to Him by an undivid 
ed love. But the Saint immediately added that she had 
also recognised that without prayer one cannot arrive at 
that state where the whole heart is given to God without 
ever taking anything back 6 . ” There is nothing in this that 
ought to astonish us. Man is naturally weak and unstable, 
and it is only in habitual contact with God by means of prayer 
that he practically learns the emptiness of created things 
in themselves ] and the plenitude of God Who, alone, is 
worthy of the whole of our love. Therefore our Blessed 
Father wishes us to give ourselves frequently to prayer in 
order never to lose sight of the Sovereign Good nor let 
ourselves be turned away from Him by the ephemeral 
attraction of the creature. 

We have need of prayer to keep ourselves constantly at 
the height of that seeking after God which constitutes our 
vocation. When Our Lord called us to the monastic life, 
He illumined us with the light of His Spirit ; we under- 
stood in this Divine light that He is the Supreme Good 
and we left all to follow Him. On the day of our profession, 
we, m the simplicity of our hearts, “ joyfully offered all 
these things upon the altar : In simplicitate. cordis mei, 
Laetus obtuli universal . We vowed stability, conversion of 
our manners and obedience : this act constituted a supreme 
homage of love and adoration, extremely pleasing to God. 
if throughout life we could maintain ourselves in the dispo- 

Ibid S r' G ,? K ' D " r £ J ib ’ l 1 - °- 35 ‘ ~ 2 - “?“• c. II. - 3. Ibid. c. 32. - 4- 
7. I Par^xxix 17 e ’ cb ' LVIn - — 6- L»/< by Bl. Raymund of Capua. — 


1 


1 


! 



ii 


MONASTIC PRAYER 3 

sitions we had at that moment, we should become real 
saints. This is absolutely beyond doubt. Now, only an 
intense life of prayer can keep us unfaltering y in this 
attitude of unreserved self-donation. Two reasofs will con- 
vince us that this assertion is well founded. 

• rv a,U ' ^ e .!’ fe , of P ra y er makes us live constantly 
m that Divine light whereof a ray enlightened us on the 
day of our monastic vocation and profession. Shut out 
from this light, we should come little by little to have no 
longer any esteem for the thousand details of religious life 
which is meaningless if it is not supernatural; and on the other 
hand, religious life is too much opposed to fallen nature, for 
a man to be able to bear it long without Divine help. It is 
from this light that we draw the strength and jov for the 
practice of the abnegation of which our life is composed • 
that we nourish our hope of one day attaining to God ; that 
we find the love which makes us love Him here below in 
faith. 


The second reason which flows from the preceding is that 
the means we have of ever tending to God and remaining 
united to Him, — the Sacraments, Mass, Divine Office, the 
life of obedience and labour, — only attain the summum 
of their efficacy if we lead a life of prayer. All these means 
are valuable and fruitful only if we do not put any obstacle 
in the way of their action, but bring to it the interior dispo- 
sitions of faith, confidence, love, compunction, humility, and 
abandonment to God’s will. Now it is above all by the 
life of prayer, by habitual union with God in prayer, that 
we gather strength to thrust obstacles aside and keep 
ourselves in dispositions favourable to grace. A soul that 
does not live this habitual life of prayer needs a great effort 
each time it wants to be recollected and to arouse the affec- 
tions upon which, generally speaking, depend the fruitfulness 
of the supernatural means that we have for sanctifying 
ourselves. On the other hand, a soul that leads a life of 
prayer never lets the Divine fire go out but keeps it ever 
smouldering ; and when the regular hours of prayer or 
moments of inspiration arrive where this fire is put more 
directly or more exclusively in contact with grace — as 
occurs in the Sacraments, the Holy Sacrifice, the Opus Dei, 
the orders of obedience, the trials sent or permitted by 
God — these smouldering embers burst into flame and become 
a glowing furnace wherein the soul sees its love for God and 
the neighbour increased and transformed, sometimes in a 
very high degree. Love of God being the only source, and 



CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



34 2 

its intensity being the only measure of the fruitfulness of 
our acts, even of the most ordinary ones, the life of praver 
which maintains and increases this love within us become* 
the secret of holiness for us. ' 

You see how right our Blessed Father is in tellinsr us tn 
apply ourselves often to prayer. It is by the faithful and 
frequent exercise of prayer that we come gradually to lead 
This life of habitual union with God in view of which St Be- 
nedict has established everything in his monastery : Dominici 
schola serviht K J «»***« 

II. 


I have elsewhere commented at lengthen the nature of 
prayer and pomted out the elements that constitute it 
^f^^tfor granted that we have grasped the substance 
of the teaching on prayer let us content ourselves here with 
touching upon some points that concern the characteristics 

P ”y er ’ ( s ™ h aswefind them in the letter and spirit of 
the Rule of the holy Patriarch. * 

of S 6 ^ hT 6 w ave S ^ id Y is , the intercourse of the child 
Heavenly Father; thereby we adore Him, 

wTLd hi f 011 ” ° ur Iove for Hira ’ Iearn to know His 
. and obtain from Him the necessary help for the perfect 

S2?« % *>*. Prayer is the normal o„tS£ 

froS'oS'dK adoption? 0 ' 1011 ’ ° f ' he 

aululi J e ,Mri° n afi ° rdS V s a SUmpse of the primary 
qualities which prayer ought to have. If praver be the 

^ ° Md ° f , God with his Hearty Father 
it wiU bear the impress both of a high degree of piety and 

brothe^f^T^- Ind6ed f ° r the cMd ? f God P £ the 
crreat but on thn ^ eS /rV n ° tenderness, no intimacy is too 
and sustained Rv ondltlon that it be always accompanied 
the immense m^ie-t SenS f ?u unutterable reverence before 
maieslalis 3 Thk ^ t °t the Father : Pcitrem immensae 
Truth* ' B t0 ad0re the Father in spirit and in 

his Ru fa iS WW d Z ble n Ch f^ Cter Benedict requires in 
Of .11 things noth ah 


*, Pmyt"- 3. f Hym R n U, rd Dm^-' tcttlL 


2 ni Part., cb. 



MONASTIC PRAYER 

343 

that , “ , the note of reverence. We are to draw near to God 
with th a t sense of respect before His infinite perfections 
which is expressed by a humble attitude and the longing 
to be pure in the presence of holiness itself. St. Benedict 
knows of and wishes for no better manifestation of this 
reverence than tears of compunction shed in remembrance 
of faults whereby, miserable creatures as we are, we have 
offended a God full of majesty — tears accompanied by 
entire purity of heart. 

He wishes our prayer to be " pure and short ” " unless " 
he adds, and here comes in the note of submission of 
heart proper to an adopted child of God — " it be perchance 
prolonged by the inspiration of Divine grace ” : Nisi forte 
ex ci j fee in inspirations divinae grahae protendatur *, 

Our holy Patriarch requires then that we come before 
God with respect and humility, as befits creatures, and 
creatures who have sinned ; but this deep reverence which 
holds us prostrate before Him in all submission, does not 
prevent the heart from opening out, under the movement 
of the Holy Spirit, in confidence, love and tenderness. 
This confidence is so much the surer in that it rests exclusively 
on the goodness of our Father in Heaven. 

In the Prologue, our Blessed Father recalls these Divine 
words 2 : “ My eyes will be upon you, and My ears will be 
open to your prayers, and before you call upon Me, I will 


say unto you : ‘Behold, I am here I ’ What can be sweeter, 
dearest brethren, " the great Patriarch immediately adds, 

than this voice of the Lord inviting us and shewing unto 
us the way of life ? " 

Thus appears the double aspect of piety as St. Benedict 
understands it. These affections are both necessary ; they 
are inseparable, as our condition of creatures and our cha- 
racter of children of God are inseparable. If an unrestrained 
familiarity, forgetful of reverence, is perilous, fear, separated 
from confidence, is not less so ; each of these two attitudes 
is a wrong done to God : irreverence, to His infinite 
sovereignty : servile fear, to His boundless goodness. 


This reverence and this confidence are possible and are 
maintained only if we take care to prepare ourselves for 
our intercourse with God. Some might say : Since it is 
the Spirit of Jesus Who prays within us, we can come into 
God’s presence without preparation. To think in this way, 
would be to make a great mistake ; we cannot expect the 

i. Rule, ch. xx. — 2 . CL Ps. xxxm, 16 ; Isa. lxv, 24 ; lviii, 9. 




344 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

Holy Spirit’s action to be forthcoming in our souls inde- 
pendently of certain interior conditions. You know the 
Protestant sect of Quakers. Very respectable people are 
to be met with among them, but their religion is rather 
singular. The principal religious act fconsists for them in 
assembling in their meeting-houses, large square halls with 
white-washed walls ; men and women sit upon benches which 
are the only furniture in the edifice ; silence is established 
all await until " the spirit moves. ” All at once, sometimes’ 
after long waiting, one of those present, a man or woman 
boy or girl, cries out : “ The Spirit moves me. ” And 
immediately she or he rises and begins to say “ what the 
Spirit breathes. ” All listen attentively to the words, which 
are, most often, only disconnected ramblings. When the 
speaker has finished, the " prayer “ is at an end and the 
assembly disperses. These Quakers expect everything from 
tbe Spirit; their whole religion consists in this desire for the 
moving of the Spirit which makes the soul vibrate and agita- 
tes the body, whence the name of " quakers. ” No interior 
preparation is required, no exterior action is asked for. 

It cannot be the same for us ; our prayer is hot the result 
of nervous troubles or illusion. « The Spirit Himself asketh 

not to “ S - ayS 2 S *-‘ Pa « 11 ' but the same Apostle warns us 
not to grieve 2 nor extinguish ” the Spirit 3 . Now, ho w 

do we extinguish the Spirit ? By mortal sin, which forces 
Him to separate Himself from the soul. How do we grieve 

tw i ,, Certa i nly not - by the frailties we deplore, the faults 
Htfl ta ^ by s }l[ pnse - but . we grieve Him by our infide- 
■m an , ° ur deliberate resistance to divine inspirations. 
2 “’ft' then if we would make the life of prayer possible 
and prayer itself fruitful, watch over the purity of our heart, 
bt. Benedict holds much to this quality. It is " the puritv 

cLion^P ^ Wcbis t0 * tbe condition of our supph^ 
it 0nS ,- Puntalis devotione supplicandum est; "let us know ' 
that ° ur P u rity of heart and tears of compunction 

be hear , d : In t uritale cordis * compunciione 
IVrZTZ T .f The soul that does not 
as far as lts faults b Y compunction, to avoid 

“ P ° S i ble f aU - that . c ? uld ^ ^pleasing to God, cannot 
attain to a hfe of union with Him through prayer : it wilfully 

Itkintbfs Holy Sp ’ rit Who must uphold the soul in prayer 
a punty that the preparation of the heart consists, 

a remote preparation, but always necessary. 

*' R ° m ' VI "’ S6 ' “ 2> E P h ’ w. 30. - 3 . L Thos, v, i 9 . _ 4 . Rule, eh. xx. 


MONASTIC PRAYER 

w” rr : ;r ect and 

I l to ., possess some knowledge of the thines of 
^ ch serve us a * elements for this commuting 
with God You may say that God sometimes gives a soul 
the gift of prayer even before it has acquired great knowledge 

* alth a u d do S ma - or is completely purified. 
Undoubtedly this is so, but it is not the general way. We 
here find a certain analogy between the manner in which 
God governs the natural world, and His mode of action in 
the order of grace. See how things come to pass in the 
domain of creation. God could produce effects without the 
concourse of secondary causes ; He could create bread and 
wine without man having to sow and reap, plant and gather 
the grapes. Did He not change the water into vine at i 
Oana f and multiply the loaves in the desert ? He is the 
Sovereign Master of all the elements, but His glory requires 
that the habitual course of things be ruled’ by the laws 
which His eternal wisdom has established. God wills that 
the vine shall be planted and the leaves bud forth, that 
the fruit shall ripen and be gathered by man and go through 
the wine-press, before the wine is poured out into the cup. 
After the same manner in the supernatural order there are 
laws fixed by Divine Wisdom and shown by the experience 
of the Saints. God undoubtedly is not enslaved by His 
laws. Thus He makes certain souls pass in an instant from 
the state of sin to a state of perfect love. Magdalen, by 
the disorders of her life, was at the antithesis of love ; it 
needs but a word from Our Lord to change her life into 
one of glowing charity. Again look at Saul ; he is a perse- 
cutor of the Christians, spirans minarutn 1 , “breathing out 
threatenings and slaughter,” hating the disciples of Jesus and 
blaspheming Christ : he is overthrown on the road to Da- 
mascus, and our Divine Saviour makes of him, in an instant, 

"a vessel of election s , ” an Apostle full of fire who preaches 
Christ from Whom nothing can henceforth separate him. 

In the same way, we read in the life of St. Teresa 3 that, in 
one of her Carmels, a novice received the gift of prayer 
without anything having prepared her for this grace. But 
these are exceptional gifts or extraordinary prodigies whereby 
God manifests His sovereign power and reminds us of the 
infinite liberty of His Spirit and of His Spirit’s action. 

I. Act. ix, i. — 2 . Ibid. 15. — 3. History of S x Teresa, according to the 
Bollandists. 




34 6 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

God’s ordinary way in leading souls to Himself is to haw 
respect to the laws of which He is the Author. 

But God excludes no one from benefiting from these laws 
about which we will say a few words. He calls all baptised 
souls to be intimately united to Him. Are we not bv 
grace. His children ? the brethren of the Son of His love ? 

L n e „, templeS ,? f His Spirit? M the mysteries of 
Jesus ali the marvellous supernatural organism that He has 
established in His Church, to what do they tend, if not to 
open to upright, generous and faithful souls the wav of love 
and of most intimate union with Himself ? And if this be 
true of Christians m general, how much more must it be 
so for those whom, by a singular predestination, Christ 
has chosen to consecrate especially to His service ? It is 

fo/lh^v b ° Ve / 11 that He s ?y s : " 1 have called you friends ” 
tor I have made you enter into the secrets of My love \ 

III. 

In speaking of the instruments of good works, we alreadv 
-: da 7 0rd a + bout three stages that, in the o£™ 

ll is niT 11 P f SS t lrou S h before coming to perfection, 
is necessary to return to this subject because the decree 

inner r hfe ayer “ practlcall y determined by the degree of°our 

th^inner lift ^*. 8piritual author s mark out three states of 
h ’ the Purgative, the illuminative, and finally 

are ZfJn 3 these three sta ^s are real, they 

b^LeeJ them o ^ Ctl ° n to one another; there exists 
E a . reciprocal penetration, a certain aflanity; 

su^ or snrTfn T S re ? t onl y fro , m the predominance of 
so far aq tn /Y ™ 1 ’ a predominance which cannot go 
L in t^ waf, Ude Y ° ther dements. Thus a soul who 
mav h f nTf y ° f purlf ! ca t‘ on hkewise accomplishes, and it 
union I?/ aCts ° f the Ruminative way and acts of 
nr 'l te same manner, a soul that is in the state of 

and the nrart; y f 1 Y longer need the thought of hell 
matter aS? °l mortl Ration . “ We cannot then in this 
“nnot YnYf h n° r c SUCh ll PP“ sab le limits, or rather, we 
another^ thesp n f CaUy souls in on e state distinct from 
P 2ed oncf ar,H g f S are n0t se P arat ed by fixed boundaries 
and sustain anti ° r TT ’ they more truly comprehend 
predoSatWn? C °' n Y te cue another, but with one 
g ement . here purification, there illumination, 
i. Cl. Joan, xv, 15. 



finally, habitual union. With this reservation, let us sav a 
word on each of these three " ways. ” • 

In the purgative way, the soul is chiefly occupied in the 
work of purification. It has come from the world to which 

!l “° re ° r . less given “Pi more or less it has offended 
the Divine Majesty ; it comes for its " conversion ” savs 
our Blessed Father .* Veniens quis ad convcrsionem^- .* " con- 
version ” here being taken in the wide sense of the word 
and meaning detachment from every creature in order to 
seek God unceasingly. The Sacrament of Penance has re- 
nutted the sins of this soul but the scars of sins and evil ten- 
dencies remain ; the attraction towards creatures is not 
entirely corrected ; the soul is yet full of spiritual imper- 
fections. It is doubtless in a state of grace and seeks God, 
but has not yet reached that state of purity and stability 
in good which is to make it worthy of the embrace of the 
Divine Spouse : the soul is not yet paralum sicul sponsam 
ornatam viro suo i . 


God requires of this soul to take the last place at the 
feast. It must above all exercise itself in the first degrees 
of humility and in reverence towards God. It is not becom- 
ing, especially when one has greatly offended God, to expect 
to enter into familiarity with Him at the beginning of the 
spiritual life. We must remain at the end of the banquet 
table until our Lord calls us “to go up higher 3 ." What 
ought to be the prayer of the soul in this state ? Not 
having any acquired habit of prayer, nor possessing within 
itself the material elements of intercourse with God, it must 
perforce borrow them from such or such a work that will 
provide these elements and of which it will make use until 
the heart be touched and the will be made subject to God. 
Otherwise mental prayer may degenerate into a vague 
barren reverie. If in the course of prayer, God draws the 
soul to Him, then it can lay aside every book. Our Blessed 
Father compares prayer to an audience 4 . Now when we 
beg an audience with a great personage that we may present 
to him our homage and respect, we are careful to come 
prepared in order not to be taken unawares ; but if in the 
course of the interview, this personage takes the direction of 
the conversation, we make it our duty to follow his lead 
without thinking any more of ourselves. In the same way 
we ought, especially at the beginning of the spiritual life, to 
have recourse to the help of such or such a practice, such or 


1. Rule, ch. lviii . — 2. Apoc. xxi, 2. — 3. Luc. xxv, 10, — 4. Rule 
ch. xx. 



CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



348 


such a method but without attaching so great importance 
to it as would leave us no liberty of spirit ; the dancer of 
dlusion will moreover be avoided by submission tn th 
direction of the Father Master*. ssion t0 the 

In this we should imitate the discretion of which our 


holy Patriarch gave proof. He was certainly a true con 
templative ; he possessed a great gift of prayer and a wide 
experience of the ways of union with God : none can d™ht 
this on studying his life and Rule. In the latter we SSf 
expect to find long pages upon prayer. We find barelv 

S^S K y 

iipssi 

s?nc h e% a d n f ?r p S re- f 

“ ty i'tbea^SK^flJlS 8 : Parity'S heart 

humility and compunction. punry 01 Heart, 

way! P u ra yer in the purgative 

the Last Ends riiricf r> ^ ou ^ t to be chiefly taken from 

SSoStf- wS 

f « P„ye t ou^ 

chiefly of a'STthS "a d te”tat sTb' Tk'"' S “ 
when he sav " „ u, . bt. Benedict is speaking 

past sins with t0 °“' s 

•" »»«■>«' tfz&f" 1 * cm " 

note of this note ’ no *| however the exclusive 

tsrssBss^r^ i sf^sss 

deep and e e„ero« became £mb£ 


with heaveniy e |iHs,‘" g t?y“ realiM G~r° t0 a ho! y Benedictine nun favoured 

egy a-s-saif aa ffgp gjssfeis 

you, and I pray Him to m-ant von nTI ° ns ’ foUovv the light that He rives 
=■>•". Ecs,alic °t «* c‘n,u?;™ Th ° c 


MONASTIC PRAYER 


349 

I Hh. 1 S s LStel' - — » * «* 
- <££r„? “S^ofX “ {£, T" d i d “ 

the monastery, the strength of bad habits the 
generosity that the soul brings to the work of self purification 
]S. 1S f ° r a P ru dent and enlightened director to jud°e of 
’ ^ , Howev ^ 14 is not presumptuous to believe that those 

^ , r i ng r the -, N ° Vltlate ' have aUow ed themselves to be 
moulded by humility and obedience, who have been generous 

^ d J U W f ar dour, who made their monastic profession with 

grea4 It ^ nd 1 gr , e J at P unty of inte ntion, will on tha+ day 
reach the threshold of the illuminative life. Monastic pn> 
fession is indeed like a second baptism ; to one who has been 
• constantly faithful to grace during the time of probation 
God certainly gives a great purity that enables him to 
advance in spiritual ways. 

IV. 

I 

j As the name indicates, the illuminative way is characterised 

jj by the spiritual lights that God causes to abound in the 

, soul, thanks to which it is filled, if we may thus speak 

I with the knowledge of divine things. 

God leads beings according to their nature. We are 
intellect and will ; now we only love the good that we know. 

! If then we wish to cleave fully to God, we must first know 
Him as perfectly as possible. Therefore, as the soul begins 
to be purified from all sin, from all negligence, God enlightens 
it little by little in order to bring it entirely to Himself. 
God has only to show Himself and the soul is drawn by His 
infinite wisdom, beauty, goodness and mercy. In return 
God requires of the soul who seeks Him that it should also 
give itself, and even for a long time, to the study of divine 
truths. This extremely important work was already begun 
in the preceding stage, but it must be intensified as one 
advances. The soul must go deeply into the truths of faith. 

| Some might say : What is the use of so much searching 

into the truths of faith ? What is the use of so many theo- 
logical notions ? What advantage do we reap from them ? 

It would be dangerous to reason after this manner. Listen 
to these words of our Lord : O Holy Father, eternal life 
consists in knowing Thee, and in knowing Him Whom Thou 
hast sent here below, Jesus Christ : Haec est vita aeterna : 
ut cognoscant te solum Deum verum, et quern mtsisli Jesum 




35 ° CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

Christum*. Thus it is Christ Jesus, the Infallible Truth 
Who makes eternal life consists in the knowledge of His 
Father and of Himself, certainly not a knowledge purely 
theoretical but. a practical knowledge which surrenders us 
wlioUy to the service of God and of His Beloved Son 
For there is knowledge and knowledge. There is a knnw- 

unlpr °/ C r i hnst T llich is pureIy intellectual, limited to the 
understanding atone ; one might thus know all that is 

Zfi sgb Z 

r „S^ e 15 another knowledge of which the motive is neither 
™ ty °j I ?. md nor inte H ec tual pleasure, but love seeking 
the beloved object with the view of being united! to it £ 

il : is important that it be developed becauLTtl^^h t0 “ ; 

the pnnciple of an ardent low * * then becomes 

lTth ed ,n,lt f “ 

eyes on the Chur^- . ^ that ' Wlth humility and with 
telhgence in fathomiL tS g ' We should our in- 

it all that is precious ^ B lnri e P osl t and in extracting from 
souls. The lives of th P g c -°f S ^ od ’ an d fruitful for our 
seeking after the truth th P ci S , sbow as that God loves this 
charity. When He wishes tn f , of a more generous 

a soul that is naS lea ? ■ ° a hl g her degree of union 
St. CathedL of Siem R Sp ' akln % httle instructed, like 
enlightening it by His Spirit - takes . the charge of 

manner the knowledge of the £ of , glvm S 3n an infused 

therein find the secret of a rays , teries that it may 

be persuaded that e £l lve Iove : Let us then 

“ talent " confided to y S the truths of faith makes the 
our sanctification US ' fructify, and we thus labour at 

Mitellecfim^safd^he grfat^on^sf 1 ^^ 116 ^'' F J deS < l uaerens 
to our holv Father monk, St. Anselm 3 . According 

to serve the Lord ■ Dnmi ? aste . ry ls a school where we learn 
tne fiord . Domimm sohola servitii* : but our service 

*■ Joan, xvn, 3, — . r v , v „„ „ . 

i. ", ep. xu. — 4 , Prologue of the’ Rule.’ S ' Anselm - Medilat. xxi, et Epist 


monastic prayer 



love is derived - is the wi<4 and de p er: M„'c‘s^ SS“ 
curntur via mandatorum Dei'-. It' k therefore , il 

thing to apply ourselves to nourish the faith within us 2 S The 

monk who is called by his vocation to a gfeat union S 
Christ cannot content himself with a faith ignorant of £ 
marycis wrought by God for our sanctification. St us seek 
as St Paul says, to comprehend... what is the breadth and 
length, and height, and depth" of the Divfnfmlterls 
that we _ may be filled unto all the fulness of God " • u'l 
impleamini m OMNEM filenitudinem Dei*. Such is the eon 
of our efforts in tins way of illumination : - to fih our souls 
with the truths of faith that they may become for us the 
principle of a closer union with God. 

th^°roA° War - WCt ? carry into effect this part of the work 
that God requires of us, whereby we may live in this state 
of illumination ? The result may be obtained in ditferent 
ways. There are souls who lay up and appropriate to 
themselves supernatural knowledge by reflection and medi- 
tation. lhis is an excellent means for souls who are en- 
gaged the most part of their time in what we agree to call 
the active life; for them, this is often the only means of 
entering deeply into the notions of faith and being per- 
meated with supernatural truths. ' * 

i ,^ bcr sou i s incapable of giving themselves to this discursive 
labour set apart a regular time for spiritual reading, either 
in the Gospels, or a Life of Our Lord, or an ascetic treatise 
on His mysteries, frequently interspersing this reading with 
aspirations of the heart towards God, towards Christ. This 
is for many the only possible manner of getting light on 
Divine things and of holding intercourse with the Heavenly 
Father. 

For us, monks, this "illumination” finds its principal 
source in the Divine Office ; therefore it is quite natural 
that after having spoken of the Opus Dei we should pass on 
to the subject of mental prayer. It is an immense advantage 
to be able to link our mental prayer to liturgical prayer, 
but to be enabled duly to appreciate this advantage it is 
necessary to understand it well. We have often encountered 
the truth that in the spiritual life all leads up to Christ 
Jesus. When St. Paul speaks of the understanding of the 

l : Prologue of the Rule. — 2. Innocent XI condemned this proposition of 
Mob nos : Theologus minor tm disposiiionem habet qttam homo rudis ad slutum 
conlemplalivi. Denziger-Banwart. Enchiridion suvtboiorum, p. 363. — 3. Eph. 
hi , 18, 19. 


ii 




352 CHRIST THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

mysteries of faith that we ought to have, he sums all ud in 
the knowledge of Jesus. He writes to the Ephesians that 
he does not cease to pray for them " that the God ol our 
Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, ” may give them a 
spirit of wisdom and of revelation in order to know Christ 
that so the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened 1 Christ 
is the great revelation of God : He is God interpreted to om 
souls. Jesus first makes known to us the Divine secrets- 
secondly He shows us how a God lives among men to teach 
them to live perfectly ; He is the purest, the most livine 
ma^nifestation of the Divine perfections. When the Apostle 

rhrilt aSk i S ? Ur ,M T ord , to show him ^e Father, what does 
Christ reply ? He that seeth Me seeth the Father 2 " for 

he makes only one with His Father: Ego et Pater uniZ 
suniits He is the image of the invisible God «. Therefore 
°[ e ™ th the knowledge of God * we have but to 
look at the Person of Our Lord, to listen to His words 
to contemplate His mysteries. ' 

r C fil } d acc ount of what Christ said 

admirably set forth G enshrin5 Ut G<>Spel is t0 be found 
Ti+i, 7 -o-.r ^ t? Z °fT* ensllnne d and commented upon in the 

eSferfTS- to Pentecost, the Church places tie 
plate one hv “ j , V* e Church makes us contem- 

lips the 

of V Ch*J r S a n * G “? s ° f ll “ ^ of'tte tefr5t„ ? anig 

God has wrought for^nr^Q 0 °Zc‘ °- f aP tile wonders that 
a revelation of wh at is at the sam'*^ &nd Salvation ; tt is 
most appropriate for our soils T - ^ m ° st perfect and 
speaks to the eyes of the t°Z ’ a \ S l settin f< fortb that 
that touches the attentive s Jl Slf “ d 

5 . Cfffiph'mfi 1 ®; ~ J ° aD - XIV > ~ 3 ' Ibid, x, 30. — 4 . Col. i, 15. — 



MONASTIC PRAYER 


353 


S0M ? 

truth of paramount importance^ “ and thjs is a 

we can therein obtain the special W +w S ^ nctl T fication — 
to attach to each of His mvsLnV^ r * hat ? ur Lord 
below, as our Head mysteries in Jivin d them for us here 

Tn thic emirnn i.1 


Thlmmk o»”m S“C WLTJ ff ‘i ’ ite 
in Christ’s footsteps listen *.0 S. „ ’ Bridc Christ, 
actions in order to imitate d 'I' T conte mplate His 

of returning to ZTtht£ ZZfJvT ** Z ^ 

«xs i frdmr lk in a p,ii wUci s 


We may be easily convinced that this path is truly that 
wherein St. Benedict leads his sons. The holy Delator 
m fact speaks of mental prayer immediately after having 
treated of the Divine Praise 2 ; he links it closely to "the 
Work of God . According to his life written by St. Gregory 

m that th f, monks , g ;lve themselves to prayer “ after 
,y h w? ffiC « : ex Z Cla P sal ™ odlai - Like the Egyptian monks' 1 
■ w .^ afte ? each psalm that they prayed for a few instants 
in silence, first standing then prostrating themselves on the 
ground as they poured out before God their souls enlightened 
and touched by the sacred verses. This custom has dis- 
appeared, but St. Benedict has kept the idea that inspired it ; 
and we must keep it after him. Our holy Father wishes 
likewise that the time which according to the regular hora- 
num remains available after Matins should be spent in medi- 
tating on the psalms or lessons: Quod vero restat postvigilias... 
psalterii vel leclionum... meditalioni inserviatur. We know 
that it was the custom of the monks, anterior to the great 
Patriarch, to fill the interludes of the Divine Office with 
meditation on the eternal truths ; St. Benedict gathered up 
this precious tradition and made it his own 6 . 

We should then take from the Divine Office, of which Christ 
is the centre, the elements of our prayer, whether we have 
retained some text that struck us during the recitation, in' 
order to meditate upon it, or whether a'fter the Office we speak 
to Our Lord with the help of a Breviary or other book 
appropriate to the feast or the mystery 7 . Our prayer should 


1. See the Note at the end of the Conference. — 2. Rule, ch. xix a xx. — 
3. Ch. lxi. — 4. Dialog. Lib. 11, c. 15. — 5. Cassian, Insiitut. ii, 7. — 6. Rule, 
ch. viii. — 7. For example, the Meditations upon the Gospel, or the Elevations 




CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 



354 

be like the flower of the psalmody. We know how the an- 
cient monks, St. Gregory, St. Bede, St. Anselm, St. Bernard 
and so many others lived this life of prayer ; we know that 
it was by drawing at this source that St. Hildegarde, St. Eli- 
sabeth of Schonau, St. Gertrude and St. Mechtilde’ rose to 
such heights of contemplation and love. So sure arid fruitful 
is this way which is that of the Church herself 1 . 

V. 

Like those who have gone before us, we too shall find in 
the Opus Dei a pure and unfailing source of illumination 
extremely fruitful for the inner life. When we are faithful 
m reciting the Divine Office well, the Holy Spirit — Who 
inspired the Psalms and directs the Church in the organisation 
of the worship of Jesus — gives us little by little a deep 
knowledge,, full of unction, sapida, of God's perfections and 
the mysteries of Christ ; a knowledge more fruitful than 
any we could gain by study and reasoning ; the Holy 
Spirit illumines with His Divine light some truth, some word 
° r ^ St f ry J esus >' He dee P!y engraves them in the soul. 

Hus knowledge altogether heavenly, supernatural and 
sweet, fills the soul with humility and confidence, and thus 
illumined with divine splendours, it annihilates itself before 
God and surrenders itself entirely to His holy will. The 
Holy Spirit, as has been justly said, " suggests the attitude 
of sincere souls 2 , the inward attitude which places the 
soul before God m full truth. 

For you will remark that the sacred texts are not taken 

+ r n 0 ^ an A the y- me to 115 from Heaven ; and as none but 
the Holy Ghost, Who inspired them, can make us know their 
depth, so none but He alone, as Christ Himself said, can 
make us understand the words that fell from the lips of 
the Incarnate Word, the actions accomplished and the mys- 
teries lived by the Saviour’s Sacred Humanity : IUe vos 
docebit°mma elsuggeret vobis omnia quaecumque dxxero vobis 3 . 

preS6nts these . tru ths in a divine light to 
i • r ’ . ^? e , 1 ? ce c ? me as it were the elements of our 

there being need of reasoning. The passing 
trnth W l the / rst , lm P ressi on fades, it is true ; but the 
SET „ b . een de ep/y perceived and remains in the soul 
ike a principle of life : Verba Christi spiritus et vita sunt*. 

•*» W — serine o, Our 

P.86 ._®: ] Seeabo D. Festugiire, 1 . c. 
— 4. Cf. Ibid, vi, 64. dt * Brivxavre ei Meditation, 1912. _ 3. Joan, xiv, 26. 


MONASTIC PRAYER ^ 

prepared bl SSV t u’ y a . " granary, " fromptuarium, 
prepared by God Himself, and those who recite the Offiro 

prave^b ? 6 %htS ° f the Holy Sp£t ; aHefa 
iew. years, prayer becomes an easv fin hit tn ft-,,,™ -rj, 

fo°rwanTof f ° r — 6 ^ 111116 hears this fact affirmed may be* 3 
for want of experience, astonished at it. But, if he is fervent’ 

and^diricnnTiiS” 1561 ^ ^5? i uickly enou g h - that assiduous’ 
^ tance with the inspired word is a sure and 
easy way of conversing with God. 

How can it be that a soul prepared and formed by the 
pin ^t, h r u f not know better than any other how to 

chfl Hn Se T u God , 1 . n ^. he mtimacy of her heart returning as 
she does to her solitude laden like a bee with honey from 
so many flowers ? How can she be ignorant of the right 
language in which to address the Divine Majesty, when she 
6 ”^ 6rs ,P lto t^ sec F®t chamber of her heart, all replenished 
Dl y ine ^ord ? What is contemplation in its 
highest form but the opening out of the beautiful affirmations 
which the prayer of the Church puts upon our lips ? When 
a soul borrows her expressions from human language, she 
will never find any words that more exactly convey the tru ths 
which she has contemplated than the forms of liturgical 
pra y er, lending themselves, as they do, with equal ease to 
the lispings of the soul beginning to seek God and to the 
enraptured outpourings of the soul that has found Him L " 
Do we not grasp how well founded is this doctrine when 
we examine things with the eyes of faith, and view everything 
in a supernatural light ? What is the aim of prayer, of all 
prayer ? To unite ourselves to God in order to do His 
will. If prayer does not tend to this, it is a mere amusement 
of the mind, mere child’s play of the soul. Now what is 
“ the will of God ” ? Our sanctification : Haec est voluntas 
Dei sanctificatio vestra". These are St. Paul's words. But 
this same Apostle does not cease to repeat to us under a 
hundred different forms that our sanctification is of the 
supernatural order, that it is God alone Who has created 
this order and established the means of realising it in us ; 
that our sanctification amounts to the entire reproduction 
in us of the features of Jesus. The Father has no other 
will for us ; indeed, the very form of our predestination, 
— and holiness is but the realisation of predestination in 
its plenitude — is the conforming of ourselves to His beloved 

1. Spiritual Life and Prayer according to Holy Scripture and Monastic 
Tradition by Madame Cecile J. Bruy6re, Abbess of Solesmes. Cb. x, translated 
by the Benedictines of Stanbrook. This work is excellent in every point ; 
unfortunately it is too little known. — 2. I Thess. iv, 3. 


CHRIST. THE IDEAL OF THE MONIC 



356 

Son : Praedcstinavit [nos Dens] con/orntes fieri iina n inis Fffil 
suiK All prayer., the whole life of prayer, ought then to 
tend to form Christ within us more, until we shall be 
to say in all truth : " I live, now not I ; but Christ liveth in 
me . T wo autem, jam non ego: vivit veto in me Christus 1 
• N0 3 W ' Vha ' bctt . er Way could be found of forming Jesus 
thnlt tha ?w c ? n t al ” plate His mysteries, and thereby 5 obtain 
the strength to imitate them ? The soul, faithful in following 

^ c ste P by st fP* s the Church presents Him, iniailibiy 
amves at reproducing within itself the character (in the 
deep meaning of the word) of Christ Jesus. The Church 
* n b ? r ,^ urgy * ls guided by the Holy Spirit, and it is this 
Spint Who not only enlightens us as to Christ's mysteries 

of c£s s “ s r pJr, t is S2S 

t L-nnst. St. Paul tells us that without the Holv Soirit 
we cannot even pronounce the name of Jesus 5 • with much 

Dhdne r Arris°t n ’of Ve r P n re i nCapable - with °ut the help of this 

22 ^ charSer fhf n ° r + ’ m * 0 ™ in S ™thin themselves th 
Eusthffcn f turaI Vlrtu « ; but in order to form 
natural traS fl , character ’ to engrave within us super- 

it n to J od ’ 

unceasing in the Liturgy. V P t ’ d thls actlon ls 

the Hturgica? lifp P fha+ r wI ? icb is bke tbe continual echo of 
faith Sreme and Inl aC?1 £ ar makes us waIk closer, by 
His Birth to His Ac ln ^ be . s *- e P s °f Christ Jesus, from 
supeSatmalSni tf^ 10n ’ beside . s havin & a sure and 
fruitfulness. n ' P ossesses in comparable efficacy and 

from the^iturgv^B be r praye J as raonks takes its elements 
mostly affec®' Id ° not say . exclusively but 

forms reasonings We nr.T ex Presses desires rather than 
to be conTc fof Xe to -° ng f r n , ecd to reason in order 
set before us bv the rmP.I 1 "® ![ uUls : we find them ready 
we have only to ODen rmr ^ m <. tbelr ^ uIness an d splendour ; 
our heart in order to onn 6 ^* 0ut our ^ an ^ to dispose f i 

and faithful soul that ?.P ro PF late * kese truths ; the attentive' 

Of discurrive reasonfne w2 S ° lltude is s P^ed the labour 

.. Rom. ^ - 2 r f 15 neCCSSar y iS t0 be Wel1 

Vcm Creator. — 5. j Cor.x'i "i 2 Ji T\v C j Ibid ' Iv > I5 ’ ~ *■ cf - Hymn 
remamder of the text sufficiently explains ol^ thought' Scntimental Tbo 


MONASTIC PRAYER 


ISPS : T ri rk 

it little by little. a»d «£' h'S 

become well-springs of life and principles of action IUs a 

law of experience that one who recites the Divine Office in 

with ne truth7 d “ p ° sl f 10n f g° es K °utfrom the choir replenished 
with truths, and is thereby placed in an altogether 
favourable atmosphere for prayer and the inner life " 

• S , ou l 1S . mclined above all to express its desires. It 
des j res whlc h come from the heart and not in the 
multitude and arrangment of words that prayer lies. When 
we have this inward thirst of conversing with Our Lord, 
when we feel the need of speaking with Him, we do not 
make phrases ; we tell Him how much we love Him how 
much we desire to love Him ; we listen to Him ; we stay 
looking at Him, praising Him, adoring Him, were it only 
by a humble attitude, full of reverence and confidence. 
Commenting on these words of Job : “ Who would grant... 
that the Almighty may hear my desire, ” St. Gregory the 
Great tells us : Remark these words : my desire. True 

prayer is not in the sound of the voice, but in the desires 
of the heart ; not our words but our desires give power to 
our cries in God's most secret hearing. If we ask for eternal 
life with our lips without desiring it from the bottom of our 
heart, our cry is a silence ; if, without speaking, we desire 
it from the bottom of our heart, our silence cries out l . ’’ 
The words of this great monk, who was at the same time 
a great Pope and a great contemplative, are but an echo 
of those of our holy Father. " Let us remember, ” says 
St. Benedict — who himself echoes Our Lord’s own words 2 — 

” that it is not for our much speaking, but for the purity 
of heart, and tears of compunction that we shall deserve 
to be heard... 3 " A monk may remain in the oratory 
after the Divine Office and there pray “ not in a loud voice 
for fear of disturbing his brethren praying beside him, but 
with te/irs and fervour of heart ” : Intret ct oret, non in clamosa 
voce, sed in lacrymis et intentione cordis *. The monk pours 
out to Him the desires with which the liturgy has inflamed 
his soul, desires which are all summed up in that prayer 
taught to us by Jesus Christ, our Master 5 , and that occurs 

i. Moral, in Job. I. xxii, ch. 17, n. 43. p. L. t. 76, col. 238. St Augustine 
saysthc same : Ipsuttt desideriutn tuum oratio tua est, fit si continuum destdertutn 
continues oratio... continuum desiderium tuum continues vox tua cst... Flagrantia 
caritatis clamor cordis est. Enarr. in Ps. xxxvn, n. 14. P. L. 37. col. 404. — 

2. Mat tlu vt, 7. — 3. Rule, eh. xx. — 4. Ibid. ch. ui. — 5. Matth. vi, 9. 
sq ; Luc. xi, 2-4. 




358 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

so frequently in the Divine Office: "Father... hallowed 
be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on 
earth as in Heaven... " 

To speak thus to the Father is to adore Him “ in spirit 
and in truth, ” in spirilu el in veritate, it is a prayer that 
rises up to Him like fragrant incense; when we recite 
the Office with piety and devotion, this prayer becomes 
very easy. As soon as the soul comes in contact with a 
Divine truth or one of Christ’s mysteries, it overflows in 
pure but fervent desire, and "sees " in the truth of God 
what God asks of it. The soul has reached the fountainhead 
of a life of intense union. 

VI. 

When a soul is thus faithful in following Christ Jesus 
step by step, in allowing itself to be replenished by the Holv 
Spirit with truths from on high and in conforming its life 
to them God kads it little by little to the stale of prayer. 
This is the third stage : that of the unitive life, where the 
soul chngs solely to God, to Christ. It can make the words 

° Wn A Who sha11 separate (me) from 
the love of Christ ? Qms me scparabit a caritate Chrisli 1 ? 

de S rees i n this state, but it is certain that 
He IiIT! C °T when God wll raise us to that degree which 

in = T- Ch u- 6 ° f , US ’ lf we continue to be generously 
faitMui m.seekmg Him alone : Ego merces lua magna nimisK 
Indeed in the measure wherein a soul is stripped of self, 

^?l ac f ts T- re a ? d more , Wlthin ^ I He draws to Himself 
aU the facuihes of the soul that He may simplify their exer- 

o eC T GS more sun P Je > the soul no longer feels 
much H- e , ln 5 much of thinking much, of speaking 
™ h *. * a S. tl0 , n of God is made deeper; the soul is 

there it I P,° d ’ “ lt: were > knowing that He is 

there , it is intimately united to Him by an act of loving 

of ilhh 106 6 ^ Ct thlS l Ct is envelo P ed with the shadows 
who each I h um ? n . ca " be com pared to that of two souls 
sneakin' onH What the , other is thinking, even without 
needfeo ev arC ‘It Com P lete union of sentiment, without 
soul look. ni r T , themSalves - Such ^ contemplation : the 
ifthe soul nnJm’i l0 r? Him and . is silent - A nd God looks 
do who are knit + S Xt fj t0 0 ^ erfi °wing. This is what persons 
said ah thev h to f ther b y a deep love : when they have 
sad all they have to say, they are content to be silent; a 

i. Rom. viii, 35. _ 2 . Gen. XV( u 


MONASTIC PRAYER 

simple glance tells all their love and tenderness The soul 
remains m this prayer of faith, united to God, to Christ 
thatthe^ n° U fu ny mtermediary. The soul puts aside all 

s^v ofroH -f’ n - atUral miehigence, even revealed truths, 
say of trod . it rests in pure faith. 

„ I i can say to God: "Since I am unable to see Thee such 
1 Wa . n i n ° or images ; I prefer to identify 
my intelligence with that of Christ and to contemplate Thee 
through His eyes, for He seeth Thee, 0 my God, as Thou 
art. In this tryst of the soul with its God, in this immediate 
contact with the Beloved, the soul gives itself and finds all 
good, for God also communicates Himself in revealing 
Himself. This contact of faith and*love is sometimes very 
short, lasting only a few instants, but it is sufficient to fill 
the soul with light ; the life of God becomes its own, the 
Divine activity transforms its own. 

This union with God in faith is very simple but verv 
fruitful. For the soul who lives in it, these words of the 
Lord in the Scriptures are fulfilled : " I will espouse thee ro 
Me in faith : and thou shalt know that I am the Lord " : 
Sponsabo te mihi in fide: el scies quia ego Dominus r . What 
ought the soul to do ? To give itself up, to let itself be taken ; 
God touches the soul, He seizes its every fibre to make them 
all converge to Himself as to their centre ; . it is a Divine 
embrance, in which the soul, despite aridity, or darkness, 
or its own powerlessness, has nothing to do but yield itself 
up into the Divine Artist’s transforming hand. 

The fruitfulness of this prayer merits for it the name of 
transforming. It is said that in Heaven we shall be like 
to God, “ because we shall see Him as He is ” : Similes 
ei erimus, quoniam videbimus earn siculi csi Immediately 
the blessed soul sees God, it is identified with Him in the 
intellect by truth, and in the will by love. In the measure 
possible, the soul is, — not equal evidently, — but like 
to God : the Beatific Vision works this transformation, 
rendering the soul like to God, to such a degree that it is 
united to Him in unity. Now, during this life, what is the 
prelude to the vision that the elect enjoy ? Prayer through 
faith. The soul by contemplating God, through faith, 
in prayer, sees His perfections in ah truth, it surrenders 
itself to this truth ; and thus beholding in God the Sovereign 
and Unique Good, its will is united to this Divine -will, fount 
of all beatitude for the soul ; and the more powerful this 
adherence is, the more the soul is united to God. This is 

i. Ose. ii, 20. — 2. I Joan, m, 2. 





3 < 5 o CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

$ 

why prayer in faith is so precious for the soul. We ought to 
wish to reach a high degree in this prayer, that is tosav 
to attain to this union full of love and simplicity which 
results in an outpouring of the most pure Divine light. 

The value of this union is very great, for it sometimes 
transforms a soul m a very short time. Plunge an iron 
bar into the fire; without delay, the iron shares in all the 
qualities of the fire. God is a furnace ; the soul that plunges 
m God through prayer is wholly filled with light and heat 
its love increases in immense proportions, and this is a 
great grace. God then acts in the soul much more than 
the soul itself acts. He works in it, the Holy Spirit takes 
i* “ hand ; . We th “ accomplish with great ease and much 
better what was hitherto done very imperfectlv God 
Himself brings forth the virtues which before we had toiled 
painfully to acquire. This state is therefore exceedingly to 
be desired; the Fathers of the Church have always regarded 

spiritual^? 0 Faff, normaI , cr ? wnin g P°int o i the § whole 
the soul n 'rt, F I { , producing pride, it gives birth in 

the soul to the deepest sense of its nothingness for it is 

vXout LSnf e at C th a p tUre to , . com P re ' len d God’s 'greatness 
My sSinlfl ‘ 1 f^wWly “tod md'in 

io St % “f" S rP°fy FShir“ 

all sin that God mr,, ^nppcd of self, and cleansed from 

the action of His Spirit ^OuaT'rm ^ “ Master through 
suum mundum a ; Q uae P°minus jam in operarium 

demonstrate 2 . It is this stitfof^ S f lncto dignabitur 

ed by the generous !tatc ° f parfect ch . arit y th at is reach- 
of humility^which resume^n^ 114 as , censi ° n of the degrees, 
purification : His omnibus b themselves the whole work of 
nuchus mox ad caritatem gradibus ascensis, mo- 

foris mittit timorem 3 Hapnv V Me t er f ccta 

•nappy state wherein the soul that 
X. Rule oh. Lvm. - 2 . Ibid , ch . V1I . _ 3 Ib . d ch vif 


MONASTIC PRAYER 


is all for God finds 
endless beatitude 1 ! 


the prelude to that 


36x 

eternal union of 


° f stimulating within ourselves the holy 
ambition of Alike state is to maintain with vigilance our life 

tLrthf<fVf° Ur - h nl y K LaWgiVer organised his inonastery so 
the world cor? 1 ^ b -f ° me ea F f0r US se P«ation from 
the S ol Ude * Sllence and recolle ction, holy reading, 
the Divine Office are so many elements that are of a nature 

to create and favour the life of prayer. 

We must first of all seek solitude and silence. We see 
our Blessed Father in his youth leave the world: recessit. 
What is his aim ? To please God alone " : Soli Deo piacere 
desiderans ; but there is no true solitude that is not bathed in 
an atmosphere of silence. Noise, in fact, disturbs the soul’s 
inward recollection \ to walk noisily, to shut the doors in 
the same way, to hold loud conversations, can hinder our 
brethren from giving themselves up to prayer; upon this 
point, each one should have it at heart to respect the inner 
life of his brethren, to facilitate it by carefully avoiding all 
that could be an obstacle to it. Little things, yes, but pleas- 
ing to God, for they favour His intimate work in souls. 


More than outward noise, indulgence in useless conversa- 
tions divert the attention of the soul and destroy recollection. 
Whenever, apart from the time given to recreation, we speak 
without authorisation, unless urged to do so by the motive 
of the love of God or of our neighbour, we commit an infidelity, 
we put an obstacle in the way of our intimate union with 
God ; with culpable levity, we allow the perfume of the Divine 
visit received in that morning’s Communion to evaporate. 
As St. Benedict says, we do harm to ourselves and are a 
distraction to others : Non solum sibi inutilis est, sed etiam 
alios distollil 3 . Where silence is not observed, it can be 

i. This is how a nun of a wonderful mystical life, the Blessed J. Bonomo, 
characterised the three stages : " The purgative way leads to the feet of Christ 
(this signifies humility feeling its misery and imploring grace and pardon); 
the illuminative way leads to the side of Christ, wherein arc contained the 
divine secrets which the beloved disciple learnt at the Last Supper as he 
leaned upon his Master’s breast ; the unitive way leads to the kiss : supreme 
testimony of that union which begins upon earth to be consummated in 
Heaven. " Life of D. du Bourg, pp. 38-40. This comparison is already to 
be found in the writings of S* Catherine of Siena. Dialogue , ch. x. S* Bernard 
speaks of the lass of the Feet, of the Hand and of the Mouth of the Lord 
which signify the three stages of the soul's progress. (In cantic, Sermones 
hi, iv, P. L. 183, col. 794, sq.). — 2. S. Greg. Dialog . lib. II. c,_ 1. — 3. 
Rule, ch. xlvih. 





362 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

affirmed that the inner life is lacking in intensity. Therefore 
our Blessed Father rarely concedes to his disciples the faculty 
of speaking together \ Is it not remarkable that after having 
pointed out a great number of " instruments of good works ” 
he reserves three of which to treat more specially, thus 
signalising that these are, in his eyes, particularly precious, 
namely; obedience, silence, humility ? He warns us to keep 
what he calls by a word of deep meaning : “ the gravity 
of silence, ” taciturnitalis gravitas 2 . He knows and repeats 
that a multitude of words is often the source of sin. Silence 
is, for him, the atmosphere of prayer ; when he invites us 
to give ourselves frequently to prayer 3 , it is only after, 
having laid down the preliminary conditions ; " To keep our 
mouth from all evil words. Not to love much speaking. Not 
to speak vain words apt only to provoke laughter. Not to 
love excessive laughter 4 . ” Does then our great Patriarch 
condemn joy ? Quite the contrary 1 He extols that “ dila- 
tation of heart the fruit of a joy of which the sweetness 
is unspeakable 5 ; but he condemns, with a severity which is 
only too well justified, all that dissipates the soul and the 
interior life, particularly words out of season, buffooneries, 
mere jesting, the habitual tendency to levity of spirit : things 
which he wishes to see for ever banished from his monasteries ; 
Aeterna clausura in omnibus locis damnamus °. So sure is he' 
that a soul which pours itself out in a torrent of words 
cannot hear within itself the Divine voice of the interior 
Master. 

Silence of the lips would be of small use unless silence 
of the heart were joined to it : " To what serves material 
solitude, says St. Gregory, “if the solitude of the soul 
be lacking ? Quid prodest soliludo corporis si solitudo de- 
juerit cordis 7 ? We might live in a Carthusian monastery 
and not be recollected, if we allowed our imagination to 
wander over an immense field of memories and insignificant 
things, if we dreamt of these futilities and opened our mind 
to vain thoughts. It is distressing to see how lightly we 
often squander our thoughts. In God’s sight, a thought 
is worth more than all the material universe ; heaven may 
e gained, it may be lost by a thought... Let us then watch 
over ourselves ; let us guard our imagination and our mind, 
which we have consecrated to God, from all tendency to 
run after deceptive mirages and unwholesome or useless 

1. Rule, ch, vi. — 2. Ibid. ch. vi. — 3. Ibid, ch.iv d Ibid «; Pro- 

L^b.tol!’ 553.' e ‘ ~ Rule ’ ch ' V1> ~ 7 - Moral, in Job?iib. xxx, c?i6. P. 



MONASTIC PRAYER 3 g 3 

thoughts : as soon as they appear let us dash them as 
St. Benedict wishes, against the rock which is Christ • Copi- 
tationes malas cordi suo advenientes mox ad Christum allidere 1 
It is by this vigilance, says our Blessed Father again that 
we shall remain exempt at every hour from sins of thought 2 

Yi Uard wlthln ourselves the precious good of interior 
recollection. A frivolous, superficial soul, wilfully and habi- 
tually distracted by the disordered agitation of sterile thought 
cannot hear God s voice. But happy that soul that lives 
in inward silence, the fruit of a calm imagination, of the 
rejection of vain solicitude and heedless haste, of the quelling 
of the passions, of progress in solid virtue, of the concentration 
of the faculties upon the constant seeking after the Only 
Good 1 Happy this soul ! God will speak to it frequently • 
the Holy Spirit will make it hear those words of life which 
do not strike the bodily ears, but which the attentive soul 
gathers up with joy within itself as the nourishment of its life. 

Was it not in interior recollection that the Blessed Virgin 
lived ? The Gospel writes of her that she kept the words of 
her Divine Son in her heart, so that she might meditate 
upon them r Maria conservabat omnia verba haec conferens 
in corde suo 3 . The Blessed Virgin did not speak many words: 
filled with grace and light from on high, inundated with 
the gifts of the Spirit, she remained, silent, in the adoration 
of her Son ; she lived on the contemplation of the ineffable 
mystery wrought in her and through her; and from the 
sanctuary of her immaculate heart a hymn of praise and 
thanksgiving rose up unceasingly to God. Our monasteries 
are like other Nazareths where, in virginal souls, divine 
mysteries should likewise be wrought. Let us then live in 
recollection and try to remain closely united to our Lord. 


It is not enough to keep outward silence, to put away 
vain and profitless thoughts from mind and heart; this 
inward solitude must be filled with reflections that help 
the soul to rise towards God. Our Patriarch provides for 
this by “ holy reading ; ” he wishes the monk to listen to 
it willingly: Lectiones sanctas libenter audire 4 . Numerous 
hours are set apart by him for what he calls the lectio 
divina 5 ; he wishes this holy reading to be taken especially 
from Holy Scripture, the works of the Fathers, and the 
conferences of the monks of ancient times 6 . 

Our Blessed Father knew by experience that no source 
of contemplation is purer and more fruitful than the Holy 

1. Rule, ch. tv. — 2. Ibid. ch. vn. — 3. Luc. 11, 19. — 4. Rule, ch. iv. 
— Ibid. ch. xlviii. — • 6- Ibid. ch. ix a lxxih. 





364 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 


Scriptures. Indeed what is contemplation but the move- 1 
ment of the soul that, touched and illumined by light from 
above, enters into the mystery of God ? It is true that 
no one has ever seen God \ for He " inhabiteth light inac- 
cessible 2 , ” says St. Paul. How then are we to know Him ? 
Ky His words. " Would you enter into the very heart of 
God ? ” says St. Gregory. " Listen to His words " : Disce 
cor Dei in verbis Dei 3 . With a being as essentially true as 
God, His words manifest His nature. Have we not here 
the very, mystery of the Eternal Essence ? God expresses 
Himself in His Word, in an infinite manner, so perfect and 
so adequate that this Word is Unique. 

And see how this Word, Who is Light, veiling His native 
splendour under the infirmity borrowed from our flesh 
reveals Himself to us in the Incarnation : Illuxit cordibu's 
nosms ad illuminationem scientiae claritatis Dei in facie Christi 
J Ws ^ ord makes us hear the words from on high 
He alone knows because He alone ever dwells in the 
fathers Bosom: Out cst in sinu Palris ipse enarravit 5 ; 

® ne Wltll . tll e Father, ” He gives us the words which 
the bather has given to Him 6 , so that the words of Jesus 
sent by the Father, are the words of God Himself: Quern 
enimmisitDeus, verba Dei loquitur L Manifold words of 

I 6 ° ne -^° rd '^. 1 the - human words that translate them 
thnr^ ri rUf °! ! d and likewise the generations that are to hear 
them m order to live by them. 

These words of God are words of Eternal Life: Verba 

fife ro Father? 1 “ TH \ £ Ur L ° rd * eUs us : " This is eternal 
r f nH 0 J ra- h Br 1 They may know thee, the only true 
God, and [Him] Whom Thou hast sent °. " The- words of 
Jesus the Inornate Word, reveal God to us. His Nature, 
His Being, His Perfections, His Love, His Rights, His 

Wkdom th? 6 ^ ttfi B nCeS , of the Word, the utterances of 
B n sd ° m :, th y make tke s ? ul Penetrate into the light from 
God dwell 7 Th nSP ° r l U v. S int ° these holy splendours where 
assfduSv t I sou t' therefore, that, full of faith, hearkens 
assiduously to these words is wonderfully enlightened upon 

af e eS en t ! U r d e e m ° f the DlV1 ? e mystery - and is able, with perfect 
5' t0 remain in contemplation of this mystery ‘ 

b JorT, ?,lr£f nd th '“ ‘K should 

life 10 ? ” in ih p S ° , w ^ er s P nn &i n £ U P into everlasting 
we ? In the Gospel, first of all. There we listen to 


-■ ,v \ u & »;• 




MONASTIC PRAYER 


Jesus Himself, the Word Incarnate • tj- 

in human words ■ that Him revealing 


in human words that which k , - veaJln S 

invisible into deeds comprehensible to^ our feeble mbdf ■ we 
have but to open our eyes, to prepare our hearMn okTr 
to Jcnow and rejoice m this light of glory : « The glory which 
Thou hast mven mp ’’ tom ■ p.y WIUcn 


Thou hast given me " says SsSinS^ 
Apostles to His Father, I have given to them 1 ” To the 
Gospels are to be added the letters of the Apostles especially 
those of St. John and of St. Paul : both repeat to us the divine 
words into the meaning of which they had penetrated the 
one while resting his head upon the Master’s Heart ’ the 
other in those visions where Christ Himself gave him to’hear 
the arcana verba 2 , " secret words ” containing His mystery 
And as Jesus Christ was " yesterday ’’ as He is " to-day ’’ 
and will be to-morrow 3 , even the Old Testament itself 
reveals Him to us. Did He not say that it was of His Person 
that Moses spoke ? Did He not frequently bring to mind 
the prophecies concerning , Him ? And as for the Psalms, 
are they not overflowing with Him, to the point of being, 
according to Bossuet’s beautiful expression, “ a Gospel of 
Jesus Christ turned into canticles, aflections, acts of thanks- 
giving, and holy desires 4 . ? ” 

The whole treasury of the' Scriptures, then, reveals Christ 
to us; on each page we .read His name. These pages 
are full of Him, of His Person, His perfections, His deeds ; 
each repeats to us His incomparable love. His boundless 
goodness, His untiring pity, His ineffable wisdom ; they 
unveil the unfathomable riches of the mystery of His life 
and sufferings, they recount to us the supreme triumphs of 
His glory. 

We understand what St. Jerome wrote : " To be ignorant 
of the Scriptures, is to be ignorant of Christ ” : Ignoratio 
Scripturarum, ignoratio Christi est s . The first Christians did 
not incur the reproach of ignorance ; not only did they lavish 
upon the book of Scriptures a special veneration, which 
has passed into the Liturgy, but they read Holy Writ assi- 
duously ; they put into practice the Apostle’s exhortation : 

“ Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly ” : Verbum 
Christi habitet in vobis abundanler 6 . It is. said of St. Cecilia 
that she always carried the Holy Gospel in her heart. She 
therefore remained united to. God by an unceasing colloquy, 
by an uninterrupted prayer : Et non diebus neque noctibas a 
colloquiis divinis et oratione cessabat 7 . 

1. Cf. Ibid. XVII, 22. — 2. II Cor. xii, 4. — 3- Hebr. xm, 8. — 4. Elevations 
Upon the Mysteries io“> Week, 3 td Elev. — 5. In Isaiam Prologus, P. L. 24, 
col. 28. — 6. Col. hi, 16. — 7. Antiphon of the office of S< Cecilia. 





366 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

But that this word may be " living and effectual 1 " in us, 
that it may really touch the soul, and truly become the fount 
of contemplation and principle of life, we must receive it 
with faith and humility and a sincere desire of knowing 
Christ and uniting ourselves to Him in order to walk in 
His footprints. The deep and intimate knowledge, the 
supernatural and fruitful perception of the meaning of Holy 
Writ is a gift of the Spirit, a gift so precious that our Lord 
Himself, Eternal Wisdom, communicated it to His disciples 
in one of His last apparitions : Tunc aperuit illis sensum ut 
intelligerent Scripturas To souls that have obtained this 
gift by great humility and earnest prayers 3 , the Scriptures 
disclose abysses unsuspected by other souls. These souls 
rejoice in the possession of these divine testimonies as those 
who have found great spoil ” : Laetabor ego super eloguia 
lua sicut i qui invenit spolia multa 4 . They truly discover 
therein the hidden manna, M inaunci absconditum 5 which 
has a thousand different tastes, contains all sort of delights 8 
and becomes their daily food, full of savour. 

H Gle \ nnermos t reason of this fruitfulness of God’s 
W ord ? It is that Christ is ever living ; He is ever the God 
w ho saves and quickens. What was said of Him during 
H's earth y life ? *! Virtue went out from Him, and 
healed all who came near to Him : Virtus de Mo exibat el 

thl a £?°Z ne r!f \ AU .P ro P ortion guarded, that which is true of 
t le Person of Jesus is true also of His word ; and what was 

true yesterday is still true in our days. Christ lives to tte 
soul of the just ; under the infallible direction oflhisTnner 
Master, the soul, humbly seated like Magdalen at His feet 
to hear His words, penetrates into the Divine Light • Christ 
gives it His Spirit, the first Author of Holy Writ that it may 
there search into the very depths of the S Omnia 

DaS: U contem P lates God’s marvels 
in respect to men , it measures, by faith, the divine propor- 
tions of the mystery of Jesus, and this wonderful spectacle 
whereof the splendours enlighten and illuminate t touchls 
soul™ SS?’ UpIi f S ’ trans P° rts aad transforms the 
tolf when nfrkf nC T eS m » . turn ' vhat the disciples of Emmaus 
,! cn Christ Jesus Himself vouchsafed to interpret to 

not our huart 

S, whilst He spoke in the way, and opened to us the Scrip- 


iv, 12. — 2. Luo yytv I. 
spiritualcm sensum non a/linrimus it' ' !ibros et ,c R imus - sed 

tndesmenlibus postulate, ut Dominu's a-hellnt eSt , lacr y ,n,s ct orationibus 

c. «, hoinil. I _ 4 . Ps. cxv/™ ! G-'f'fpoc W ln ^ 

— 7 • Luc. vi, 19, — 8. I Cor. n/io. 5 -frpoc. n, 17, — C. Sap. xvi, 20. 


1 





tures : Nonne cor nostrum ardens erat in nobis — dum 
loqueretur in via et apenret nobis Scripturas 1 ? 

What is there astonishing, then, in the lact that the soul 
charmed and won by this living word “ which penetrates 
even to the marrow, ” makes the prayer ol these disomies 
its own : Mane nobiscum 2 , " Stay with us I ” n tk 
incomparable Master, indefectible Light mfalhble Tnito 
the. only true Life of our souls ! Forestalling tLl holv 
desires, the Holy Spirit Himself asketh for us with un- 
speakable groanmgs 3 , ” which constitute true prayer, these 

the e Fp C thlr C ' eSlr i eS t0 P j SS r eSS God ' t0 live no l° n ger save for 
the Fathers glory and for that of His Son Jesus. Love 

become great and burning by contact with God, takes 
possession of all the powers of the soul, renders it strong 
and generous to do perfectly all the Father’s Will, to give 
itself up fully to the Divine good pleasure. 

What better or more fruitful prayer than this ? What 
contemplation can be comparable to it ? 

, , ldf, nce ' ve understand why our Blessed Father, heir to 
the thought of St. Paul and the first Christians, wishes the 
monk to consecrate so many hours to the lectio divina, that 
is to say to the reading of the Holy Scriptures and the works 
fhe Fathers which are their echo and commentary. 
We understand how it is that a monk, attentive to gather 
up daily in the liturgy this substantial nourishment of the 
Scriptures given to him with perfect fitness by the Church, 
.Christ’s Bride, could not be better prepared to converse 
intimately with the Divine Master. 

Oh I if we knew the gift of God 4 ! If we knew all the 
value of our share of the inheritance ! Fimes ceciderunt mihi 
in praeclaris, etenim herediias mea praeclara est mihi 5 I 

VIII. 

In truth, the monk whose soul, pure and faithful, is atten- 
tive to keep the silence of the lips and heart, who listens 
devoutly to holy reading day by day, is excellently prepared 
to live in God's presence. We are not yet in Heaven, 
where by the Beatific Vision we shall be forever in the 
Eternal Presence ; let us, at least, often place ourselves 
under the gaze of God : ” In Him we live, and move, and 
are °. ” Let us render His Presence actual by the free 
movement of a recollected soul ; this Divine Presence will 

t. Luc. xxiv, 32, — 2. Ibid. 29. — 3. Rom. vm, 26. — 4. Joan, iv, 10. — 

3. Ps. xv, b. — 6. Act. xvu, 28. 




368 CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

thus become the atmosphere in which we move. Like 
St. Benedict of whom it is said : " He dwelt alone with 
himself under the eyes of the Sovereign Beholder, ’’ Solus 
in snpcrni Spectators oculis habitavit secum 1 , we shall 
abide continually in presence of the thrice-holy God not 
by means of ceaselessly renewed prayers, or violent efforts 
of mind or imagination, but by a deep and peaceful sense 
of faith which everywhere keeps us before God. We shall 
put in practice the precept of our Blessed Father : " To 
hold for certain that God sees us everywhere ” : In omni loco 
Benin se respicere pro certo scire*; we shall seek the gaze 
and simie of our Father in Heaven ; we shall often repeat 
to Him : 0 Father, c^t a ray of light upon Thy servant, 

tawms/ TIly chlld : Factem iuam ittumina super sermrn 

When we are faithful thus to keep habitually the sense 
of God s Presence, the ardour of love is constant • all our 
actmty, even the most ordinary, is not only kept pure from 

° Ur k L ? WglVer ' Vishes ’ Actus viiae suae °^ni' 
wfi I dtr l ’ but, moreover, raised to a supernatural 
level. Our whole life is irradiated with heavenly light “ com- 

fominum* f /Tth- he - ^ ther of Iights ” descendmis ’a Patre 
lumrnum . and this is the secret of strength and joy. 

thirfL hablt - th r P resence of God disposes the soul for 
llTT. happen - and to cer tain souls it 
V lat the y. find a real difficulty in making 
state assigned ; weariness, sleepiness, a 

efforts tn aH ' ’ ^brtractions, hinder, in appearance, all 

ehorts to attain prayer : this is spiritual dryness Let the 

neS the W S remain ./ a .i t ¥ ul and d ° what it can to stay 
near the Lord, even if it is without sensible fervour • Ut 

(Xdraw SU T ? PUd u' et eg ° sem P er tecum °- God 
ftese 4Vof r a A a ° ot ber moment. It can be said of 
cSiH+fhi L °^ d What the Scripture declares of His 
Xt hou^nrl 05 ^ m Ur ear ^y life.:." You know not at 
vaster veniurus c it 7 ° r come , • N ascitis qua hora Dominus, 

L garden in * h ? eV * I T here » in the ceU - in the cloister; 
Divine Presence Onr We llVe recollected in the 

esence ' ° ur Lord will come .the Trinitv will come 

wMcfXXT”/ ^ hands fad of TgK Ind glS 
a considerable 4? ° °- Ur Ver7 dep tl ls and have sometimes 
then orodSeri reper . < l ussi0n up °n our inner life. There is 
then produced, as it were, an indelible imprint of God 

— 4. Rule, E cf'iv° e — p“ lc ' ch - Iv - — 3 - Ps. cxvm, 155. 

— 8. Joan, xiv, 23. J * ,7 - — <>. Ps. lxxii, 23. — 7. Matth. xxiv, 42. 


Monastic prayer 3 g g 

like to men who wait for their Tm-A >* cv, ■, , ... De 

exspectantibus Dominum suum 1 ; the Lord finding uT ready 
ivill make us enter with Him, cum eo\ into the festal hall L. 

Thus little by little, the soul mounts towards God and 
prayer becomes its very breath ; habitual union, full of love 
is established, a very simple but steadfast contact with the 
Lord : God becomes the life of the soul. If the monk keeps 
silence, it is to converse inwardly with God ; if he speaks 
u is in God, of God, for His glory. Such was the practice 
of a holy monk, Hugh, Abbot of Cluny : Silens quidem 
semper cum Domino; loquens autem, semper in Domino vel 
de Domino loquebatur 3 . 

The monk who lives this life does not waste his time 
thinking of himself, of what others are doing, of the wrongs 
that may have been done to him, or that he imagines have 
been done to him ; he does not turn over in his mind all 
these littlenesses, all these trifles, but he seeks only God ; 
whenever he can do so, at every free moment left to him 
by work, the functions of his charge, the ministry of souls, 
his heart turns towards God to cleave to Him, to express 
to Him his desires, brief but ardent : that is the tendency 
of his soul. The soul withdraws into its own depths there 
to find God, the adorable Trinity, Christ Jesus Who dwells 
in us by faith. Christ unites us to Himself ; we live with 
Him in sinu Patris 4 / and there we are united to the Divine 
Persons ; our life becomes a communing with the Father, 
Son, and Holy Spirit ; and in this union we find the well-spring 
of joy. We meet sometimes with sorely tried souls who 
yet by a life of prayer make within themselves a sanctuary 
where the peace of Christ reigns. It is enough to ask them : 

" Would you not like to have some diversion in your life ? 
to hear them at once reply : " Oh, no, I wish to dwell alone 
with God. ” Happy state of a soul living the life of prayer I 
It everywhere finds God, — and God suffices for it, because 
it is filled with God, the Infinite Good. 

But the soul feels the need of consecrating one hour 
exclusively to communing with God, that, this may be, as it 
were, the intensification of the soul’s habitual life. This hour 

1. Luc. xir, 26. — 2. Matth. xxv, 10. — 3. Vita Hugonis, c. 1, P. L. 159, 
loc. 863, — 4. Joau. 1, 18. 





37 ° CHRIST, THE IDEAL OF THE MONK 

is at once a manifestation of and a means of attaining the life 
of prayer. It is impossible for a soul to have arrived at a state 
where prayer is its life without giving itself in an exclusive 
manner, at certain hours of the day, to the formal exercise of 
prayer but this exercise is only the natural expansion of its 
state: this is why our holy Lawgiver, who has regulated 
everything to establish and maintain this life of prayer in his 
monasteries, has not thought it necessary to fix determined 
times °f prayer for his sons. He wants the monk to seek 
God ; and if this desire of seeking Him be true and sincere 
themonk will try to find these hours where he may be alone 
with Him Who is the One and Sovereign Good of his life 

Thus animated, monastic life necessarily becomes an 
ascending pathway towards God. The virtues are nourished 
by the frequent contact of the soul with the fount of all 
Perfection: I bunt de virlute in virtutemK PraTr brings 
down the dew that fructifies the earth of the soul. Without 
prayer, the soul is dry ‘as earth without water" - Anima 
mea stent terra situ aqualibi*; the divine seed of grace sent 
to us through the Sacraments, the Mass, the Divine Office 1 
the exercise of obedience, may fall abundantly, but it mav 
fall upon ground hard as a rock, and touch oily the surface 
without penetrating the depths ; it then " withers awav " • 
Semen cecidtt supra peiram et aruit 3 . To fructify our soul 
prayer must descend upon it « as a sho^ 
and. as drops upon the grass " : Quasi stillae s tiler eramina * 

mSreTd\\ h o r0 n U r g i and ^ the SoiI of t«~nd 

Sss * £ SPSS 

cellent ./• 1 , ille °f prayer is our most ex- 

ourselves,* and "to G oTto -S™ 

should be the natural radiation of ' but tlus minlstr y 
God Let not!,;™ f radiation of our innermost life in 

ea 3 'but rLher l f g 1 r . n . us awa Y from it : Non auferalur ab 

a magnificent one for attain- 

Ps, LXXXIII, 8, — - 2, Ibid pvt rt n _ 

XXXII, 2. — 5. L«0. x, 42. “■ ' 6 - ~ 3 - Cf - Luc. viii, 4. — 4. Dcut. 


MONASTIC PRAYER 

mg this lofty end We five in solitude, far from the vain 
muse of the world ; we sit down daily/and are served bv 
the Church herself, at the splendid table of the liturgy whcrl 

The soul’s 11 beSfooT 6 v* ^ of God ’ s which is 
the soul s best food. Everything m the monastery even 

God t0 The Wa n S ’ the architecture b ears us towards 

' ii'- Th ? Lo E d thus draws us to Him, for it was not for 
nothing that He brought us into monastic solitude ; He 
wished that we should be able to listen more easily to Him 
God is doubtless everywhere, even in the tumult of great 
cities but His voice is only To be heard in silence. He 
Himself has told us so : ‘ I will lead her [the soul] into the 
wilderness : and I will speak to her heart " : Ducam earn in 
solnuatnem et loqttar ad cor ejus 1 . Religious vocation is 
the expression of a singular love of God and of Christ Jesus 
towards each one of our souls : God wills to be for us the 
Only Good and our sole reward; He contains all good, all 
joy, all beatitude, but let us be persuaded that we shall 
only find Him fully by a life of prayer. 

Happy the humble and obedient monk who seeks but to 
listen to God in the sanctuary of his soul, with deep reve- 
rence and unutterable tenderness. God will often speak to 
him, even when least expected ; He will fill him with lights 
to rejoice his soul, even in the midst of his tribulations 
and trials. " For Thy word, O my God, is sweeter to the 
soul than is the most delicious honey to the mouth s ; " 
it contains all light and all